Review: Roundabout

*Full disclosure: Nick Cummings, our editor-in-chief, was a credited QA tester for Roundabout, which is why I'm reviewing the game. Nick had no hand in the editing of this article. Ethics!

Being born in 1986 really impacts my ability to understand the preceding decade.

At best I associate the 1970s with amazing music. At worst I picture a sea of white guys with porn staches, afros and bell-bottom pants. Thanks to films and television, both the best and the worst of a decade synonymous with Vietnam, Watergate and oil crises inform my opinion on an era in which I wasn’t even alive.

All of that is to say, I really wish Roundabout was my first experience with 1970s culture. Maybe if I grew up assuming pumpkin-topped orange limos were the primary means of transportation, and gender-bending chauffeurs were able to endlessly rotate their luxury taxis to the tune of B-movie porno bass, I’d think more highly of those years.

But I was born in 1986, and rather than a wonderfully silly game about spinning limousines, we millenials have Hotline Miami.

Let's break that down a bit.

Color coordination was just as important in 1977 as it is today

Color coordination was just as important in 1977 as it is today

First: I'm not actually going to compare Hotline with Roundabout. While there are similarities (sanguine cartoon gore, teaching gameplay mechanics through dying...a lot), these games couldn't be more different. Roundabout strives to be likable, friendly even. This game will charm you, whereas Hotline does its best to disturb you. And really, Roundabout doesn't need to be anything more than a hilariously fun bowl of tortilla chips on which developer No Goblin spews the cheese that is a ton of gloriously awkward full motion video.

By the end of Roundabout I never felt competent enough in my endlessly spinning limo to take on the side mission challenges. That's not to say the game is frustrating -- far from it. I predict that this little indie gem will have a long life because Dan Teasdale, the head-honcho behind No Goblin, smartly included leaderboards both worldwide and friends-only. However, I kept pushing through death after death to watch the fantastically horrible FMV of passengers requesting assistance from the silent Georgio Manos. It was in the grainy, green-screened videos that I found the heart of the game.

Farmer Pope is everything

Farmer Pope is everything

So to be clear: the acting is bad -- really bad. And why shouldn't it be? Aren't core gamers nostalgic for cheese-ball FMV? Roundabout doesn't succumb to the in-joke, thankfully. The narrative is uplifting enough to avoid the pitfalls of self-deprecating humor.

Throughout the two to three-hour campaign, Roundabout tells stories of new love, greedy millionaire businessmen and how pills will make you trip enough to become friends with a skeleton. Many of these vignettes are derivative, influenced by pop culture from the decade that Roundabout lampoons, but they're certainly memorable. Whether or not you're good at the game, you'll remember these FMVs long after you've beaten it. That says quite a lot about this debut effort.

You'll play Roundabout for its zany, poorly acted characters, and maybe find yourself sticking around to challenge friends and strangers for the title of the best-worst 1970's limo driver. There's a lot to do, be it tracking down a boatload of collectibles by exploring a faux-Grand Theft Auto city (the overworld map is a dead-ringer for GTA III) or mastering any of the nine unlockable challenge modes. While all the extras are lost on me personally, I can't ignore the value they add to what otherwise could have been an all-too-brief, and totally odd, experience.

Drugs: not a bad idea considering the friends you’ll make

Drugs: not a bad idea considering the friends you’ll make

Roundabout is an indie game through and through: it's unusual, unexpected and unmatched. With confidence I'll say it has no peer on the market, even if it lovingly cribs influences from its source decade and numerous classic games. If you're a sucker for something new, I suggest you ask Georgio Manos to take you for a spin.

(I made it to the end of the article before using that pun, so that's pretty remarkable!)

Recommended for:

  • People who self-identify as having a weird sense of humor.
  • People who remember the '70s -- I can't confirm if any of this actually happened back then.
  • Indie fans growing tired of the Minecraft clones and Kickstarter darlings.

Not Recommended for:

  • Those who self-identify as having no sense of humor.
  • People who remember the '70s -- I'm pretty sure none of this happened back then.
  • Individuals uncomfortable with lesbian relationships, you monsters.

Roundabout was developed by No Goblin and is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Silicon Sasquatch was provided a copy of the game for review. The reviewer finished the story, collected lots of stuff and sampled most of the challenges, reaching 31.5% completion on Windows before writing this review.

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