I was never able to wrap my mind around the tricky spinning puzzle series Kururin but I was always fascinated by the titles. It also didn’t help that it was never released in North America and fell pretty low on my ROMs-to-check-out list. So when No Goblin revealed a wacky 3D spiritual successor packed with FMV and a hint of Katamari whimsy I was ready to jump right in. Short story short, I didn’t.
I wound up getting the game in January of this year from Humble Bundle but put it down a few weeks later for another trippy, cerebral experience with The Witness. I’ve been ready to get back to Roundabout ever since and this past weekend I finally did. Naturally, I was 2 missions away from the end but let’s rewind a little farther first.
Roundabout opens with the introduction of the silent hero… person, Georgio. The game never specifically says “him” or “she” and other characters throw around non-specific terms like “buddy” and “pal”. The character is obviously played by a female actress but the story and experiences are vague enough that anyone can read whatever they want into Georgio. It’s maybe the most unexpected part of this already inexplicable game and it was ultimately the reason I came back to finish it.
That’s because the parts where you’re piloting a constantly spinning limousine through an unpredictable series of timed missions can get a little frustrating. It takes a shift in your gameplay perception to even engage with the controller. Timing and alignment are most critical and staring at the spinning car for just the right angle of attack can turn invasive. It’s one of those games that gets into my head and forces its way into my dreams for a few days. I’m honestly not very good with the controls but the game is mostly gracious with checkpoints and never takes itself so seriously to make you feel incapable after exploding 5 or 10 times in a row. Completionists may feel a sting though as every mission has a tight time trial and there are hundreds of collectibles around the game’s moderately sized open world.
Even at it’s most frustrating Roundabout is compelling for the cavalcade of FMV scenes that bookend each mission. They feature a host of bizarre and hilarious characters portrayed by the familiar faces of No Goblin’s game industry friends (and by extension, the Giant Bomb circle). It’s funny seeing video game composer Danny Baranowsky playing an ultra-stereotyped Canadian tourist but the character that kept me playing was Georgio’s surprise love interest, Beth.
It is downright ridiculous that this absurd game of spinning cars and low budget cinematography could stir my heart like it did. Doled out in painfully short video clips over the course of the game, I went from writing off the bubbly Beth to worrying if she and Georgio would wind up together or not. There’s burgeoning friendship, a lovers spat, an unexpected reunion and ultimately the happy ending I was so worried about. All of this without a single word from Georgio and all filmed on a single crappy car-interior set.
Like so many open world games I found myself driving around town after the credits, hunting for collectibles but really searching for more offbeat FMV magic. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish finding the hidden tchotchkes but I am so very happy that I finally finished this surprisingly sweet game.