Vroom Kaboom’s vehicular tower rush gameplay is fast and furious and at times you get that feeling you could be Vin or Paul bringing down your opponents with a whole menagerie of crazy cars, buses, aircraft, and military ordinance. Digging deeper and moving past the nitro boosts and explosions, a clunky control scheme, and a weak campaign brings out the Tokyo Drift in the game instead of the Fast Five.
Vroom Kaboom is a strange beast, a chimera if you like. It combines vehicular combat, with tower defence, with base rush, with MOBA aspects, with resource management, with deck building. All these components fit together with varying degrees of success to create a somewhat confusing game.
The amazingly titled Ratloop Games Canada are the studio behind Vroom Kaboom and they have released it on PC and PS4 with a free to play and premium version of the game. The FTP version contains all the basic gameplay but is missing some of the line-up of vehicles, which can be unlocked with the purchase of the premium pass for real-world money.
The gameplay pits you against single or multiple opponents that can be A.I., human or a combination of both. Each player comes into the game armed with a deck made up of, amongst other things, cars, motorbikes, tanks, buses, and helicopters. These amazing automobiles all have a deployment cost, their own unique stats and a special skill to wreak havoc upon your opponent. It is your goal to send your mechanical army along the track picking up resources and bonus cards on the way. The track is made up of two to four lanes that can be switched between at will. Quick wits and sharp reactions are needed as opponent vehicles will be traveling the opposite way in the same lanes leading to plenty of crashes and defensive opportunities. If your vehicle makes it to the end of the track it has the chance to launch itself into the enemy base and take down some of its energy and then it is on to the next mechanical missile for more of the same until the base is finally destroyed and victory claimed.
The concept seems pretty straightforward at first and it is executed with passable graphics and a reasonably rambunctious soundtrack. Collecting enough resources to unleash Frank The Tank and destroying all those that come before you feels satisfying but as the game tries to do more it becomes a bit of a mess. As long as you have the resources and the available cards you can deploy as many vehicles as you want……at the same time, meaning you must flip between vehicles, set them on the desired path, avoid enemies, try and destroy enemies, set up turrets, recycle unwanted cards, and collect more resources all in real time. Getting the hang of this is no mean feat as everything is moving at a frenetic pace and the situation is further hampered by the fact that there is no explanation of how to do this. You can start a training game, but this is just an opponent less slice, you are still figuring everything out through trial and error. On top of this, as soon as I started the game the controls proved a roadblock to my success. Using a mouse click to essentially steer a car feels very unintuitive and clunky. Keeping track of your cursor as you are trying to do a multitude of things all at once is difficult, leading to missed lanes and many, many wrecked vehicles. When I had three to four cars on the go at once I found myself trying to steer with the keyboard controls leading me to change, frustratingly, back and forth between them. You can focus on one vehicle and let the A.I. take charge of the rest but you will see some hilariously bad driving as you watch them careening around on the track ahead.
Vroom Kaboom does nothing to build upon this initial, frustrating gameplay loop. Once you have completed a battle, you have experienced most of what the game has to offer. With three factions to choose from, you will see variation in the vehicles you are using and those deployed against you, but they do very little that will make you change the way you play the game. This one-dimensional feel also translates over to the deck building aspect of the game as I couldn’t ever see myself spending much time pouring over stats and balancing a deck because of how little it actually affects the gameplay. A series of increasingly difficult matches on similar tracks without a hint of story masquerades as a campaign mode that is as uninspiring as it sounds. And if all this wasn’t enough to leave my enthusiasm for the game running on fumes, when I lost a battle, that ubiquitous free to play mechanic, that little thing that had been whispering in my ear “maybe just one more game”, the all-important progression bar started moving….. in the opposite direction, I was losing progression! This is something I was staggered to see and had not witnessed in a game for years. It elicited a highly negative reaction in me every time I was faced with it.
During my time with the Vroom Kaboom I couldn’t shake the mobile game vibe and feel that a touch-based control scheme and a few short play sessions on the bus home would have been a more appropriate way to experience it. In the end, with all things considered including, that it is free to jump in and try, Vroom Kaboom, is like one of those interesting concept cars that is trying to innovate and set itself apart from the competition but never actually makes it onto the road.