Roundabout: Take this B-movie limousine for a spin

September 18, 2014


No Goblin’s debut title, Roundabout, is about navigating tricky paths in an unorthodox fashion, and so, it seems, was the game’s development. It tries to balance the dumb fun of its world and narrative with some truly exacting mechanics, and it succeeds if you’re willing to approach each aspect in its own time.

The core conceit of Roundabout is its revolving limousine, a truly weird choice that ends up controlling a lot like the (import-only) Kuru Kuru Kururin series. Players move around this limo, squeezing it through tight spaces and curves while the rotation of the limo continues unceasingly, and the challenge comes from not hitting walls and obstacles on the way. Layered atop this is a Tony Hawk-style combo scoring system, with clean runs and bonus pickups really driving you up the leaderboards.

The other main part of the game, and largely where its soul and charm lies, is the extensive amount of live-action cutscenes, filmed in a B-movie style and featuring a series of amateurs having fun with just how bad they can make their performances. If you’re a fan of the dumber things in life, you’ll get a kick out of these vignettes that wrap around each of the game’s campaign challenges. Generally, these scenes consist of a colorful character getting in the limo and spouting a bizarre excuse for why you’re about to drive across town, interspersed with shots of chauffer Georgio Manos turning around silently and making various reactions. If anything holds this together, it’s Kate Welch’s performance as Manos; it’d be hard enough to react to these events in a vacuum, but doing so without ever speaking — and in a way that’s so endearing — is a real accomplishment.


Controlling the limo can actually be quite difficult at times, and not just in the how-is-this-even-happening way. That feeling when you pull off a clean run is undeniably great, but more often than not, you’ll get caught on the corner of something or tripped up trying to determine which little objects are breakaway debris and which will stop you in your tracks. This is something that Kururin never encountered due to its environmental simplicity, but it hits Roundabout hard due to its somewhat-coherent world.

The real difficulty Roundabout finds itself struggling with is making these two disparate aspects work simultaneously, and it seems the solution here is to embrace one at a time. Actually completing the challenges isn’t particularly hard, as there are unlimited retries and generous checkpoints, so those looking to enjoy the story should devote an initial run to content tourism. There’s definitely a lot of fun in just playing around with the game’s mechanics, especially once you start jumping about and unlocking various abilities to equip.

When that’s done, or if you want to take a break and try some of the skill-based challenges, you can tune out the chatter and world to make sure you’re moving around in the super-precise nature that’s required to meet specific goals in each run, like completing it without hitting anything or reaching certain time and combo goals. This part will appeal to those who like working toward perfecting an ideal run and moving up leaderboards, but trying to do this while laughing at wacky passengers just doesn’t seem like the way to go.


The aesthetics of the game commit to its ’70s B-movie ambitions, with film grain effects, a “groovy” color palette and retro design elements. The music serves to tie together the bright gameplay views with the low-rent look of the story scenes, and generally you’ll probably get into it a bit too much from time to time and lose just enough focus to turn your limo into a cloud of shrapnel.

No Goblin was conscious of scope, preferring to limit Roundabout‘s world and story to a manageable size and length. If you end up spending more than three or so hours in the world, it’s to head back and chase more goals and that elusive 100% content completion. That said, if that is your aim, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from taking on each level in five or six different ways and adjusting your tactics from speed to caution and everywhere in between.

A lot of love and care has been put into the Roundabout package. Even without the Deluxe Edition extras, there are various modes and special functions, ranging from aesthetic changes to “eSports mode,” made for playing around with more than as a serious element of the core game. In the game itself, you can buy property for thinly-justified reasons, as well as equip limo hats and change paint jobs and horn sounds. It’s one of those “we thought it was funny, so we did it” sorts of packages that you can only see in a small-team effort. There’s also a wealth of in-jokes, best appreciated by those who know the No Goblin crew and their game industry friends. Even if you don’t, though, chuckles abound.


It’s clear that No Goblin both wanted to realize a B-movie feel in a game and knew that the mechanics themselves had to be above that standard. For a small-team project, it largely succeeds in grafting these two elements together, as both are equally silly. Still, Roundabout is best experienced circuitously, repeating the experience with different aims until you’ve exhausted what it has to offer.

Pros: Hilarious and memorable story, distinct gameplay
Cons: Punishing challenges, frustrating moments

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.