VROOM KABOOM

VROOM KABOOM

Written by Dave Gamble on 8/31/2018 for RIFT  
More On: VROOM KABOOM

With a name like Vroom Kaboom, one can safely postulate at least two things: there will be motor vehicles (Vroom), and there will be explosions (Kaboom). The harder question has to do with precisely how the vehicles and explosions work together in a game. Generally when trying to describe cases like this, I take the easiest path forward and just read about it as it is described on Steam. This helped, but not a lot:

"Vroom Kaboom is a brand-new type of gameplay experience. A 'Tower Rush with Vehicles,' this game combines elements from collectible card games, tower defense and multiplayer online battles. Build a deck of vehicles and deploy them into battle against other players online. It ends in destruction."

Well then. It’s a mash-up. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but there’s really no telling if it’s a good mash-up until you try it. From the creative side, there is great appeal to combining various game types into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and is differentiated from the masses of me-too clones, but it can just as easily be a disaster as a blockbuster. I myself was tempted during the brief phase when I thought I wanted to build a game; I thought that a combo word game/VR shooter would be compelling. The idea was that you would have a limited amount of ammo and/or time to use in a VR Gun Club-type of shooting range where the targets were letters of the alphabet. High value letters like Z, Q, and J would be harder to get, while the common letters would be easy. After collecting the letters, the player’s score would be based on the words that the player could build from the pool of captured letters. The point of doing it in VR? Absolutely none. Or said another way: just because. To me, it sounded like a blast. A year later, I really doubt that it would have been.

Similarly, the idea of Vroom Kaboom doesn’t sound bad at first blush.

The fundamental nature of the game is tower defense, although paired with tower offense, if there is such a thing. The towers in question are actually pair of fuel oil tanks, on each side of a narrow road,. They are mounted on trusses and guarded by walls and fences. You and your opponent each have a pair of tanks to defend. In reality, though, you do very little defending and a whole lot of attacking. You do so by selecting vehicles from your card deck and sending them on down the road towards your opponent’s tanks.

The deck of cards is a workable way to differentiate the cost/strength ratios across various types of vehicles. The attacks on the opponent’s “towers” bring weaponry and strength into play, and the use of cards also allows for a means of showing a cost/benefit value for each unique vehicle. More simply, they are an efficient way to manage your garage of vehicles given that each vehicle has a defined cost to use.

The cards act as an easy-to-see roster of which vehicles a player can use at any given time. Having disparate cards also makes it somewhat easier to dump vehicles that aren’t supporting your strategy and to gain points in the game to use for new or different cards. It all sounds much more complicated than it really is once you get into the game.

The action part of the game itself took awhile to learn due to an extremely rudimentary tutorial. I was playing in VR mode, so there was also the additional burden of not being able to see screen text and graphics as clearly as I would have preferred. That’s just the nature of the beast, though, and it is easy to just go back to flat.

The tutorial problem was at least partially resolved when the dev team recently created a series of short how-to videos that explained some of the more esoteric behaviors of the game. For example, when you first enter a round of play, the game presents itself as mostly being a racing game. The uniformed player is going to try to steer the selected vehicle as if it was, in fact, a racing game, but it’s not going to work. In reality, the player only has the choice of which lane to use on the road, and changing lanes is a button press rather than the more common means of steering. This odd form of steering took a long time to get used to, and it never really got away from generating more irritation than enjoyment. It just didn’t feel right and I could not shake decades of expectations on how things like this should work. It would be like a shooting game that uses your thumb as the gun’s trigger.

While the game is built for multiplayer, it is possible to play alone with AI opponents and teammates. In a single player round, you can play in 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3. Each player has their own set of cards and works mostly independently of the others, although getting some live players on your team would allow for some rudimentary team strategy. Even in 1v1 the single player can make use of the AI player: the only limit to how many vehicles you can have in play is the amount of energy required for each. You can only control one of the vehicles at a time, so the AI takes over if you abandon one of your vehicles to jump into another. Note that this never worked out well for me, mostly because the AI wasn’t all that much more successful at it than I was. The opponent AI, on the other hand, were quite effective and seemed to kill me far more often than I could even wound one of them. That could have been due to my utter lack of an effective defence, of course, or it could be down to my incredibly bad offensive play. Or, I suppose, some unholy combination of both.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not very good at frenetic games, so I am never too upset at losing most of them, but I do like to be able to progress to a level where I at least win a few rounds. With Vroom, I made very little headway. This was partially because I never got comfortable with the steering scheme, although it did seem to work slightly better in VR than flat. Also playing a factor in my dismal success rate was my abject failure in learning how to accurately aim offensive weapons, for the times when I had them.

I almost immediately gave up on trying to defend my tanks and concentrated on destroying the opponent’s targets. That didn’t go especially well either, what with the opponent’s aforementioned superiority—I seldom made it to the end of the gauntlet, and on the rare occasion when I did manage to reach the target, my vehicle’s strength was degraded to the point where I could have done more damage with a boiled peanut.

For the record (and because I mentioned it), VR does not add much to this game, beyond the slightly easier vehicle steering. VR, as it stands today, brings a lot of value in the areas of immersion, scale, and headtracking. It does this at the expense of good video resolution. In Vroom, the VR view is pretty much the same as the flat view. There is no increased sense of scale—the cars still look like toys. Head tracking has very little to do with the way the game is played—tunnel vision works every bit as well. The view is 3rd person from behind the car, so there is no immersion to be had. However, you do still lose the crisp screen resolution you have become accustomed to. All in all, the VR is a net loss when it comes to the gameplay.

At the end of the day, it is difficult to assign a score to Vroom Kaboom. The idea is intriguing, but it never got around to delivering the gratifying experience I had hoped for. The difficulty in controlling my vehicles was intensely frustrating, as was the perceived imbalance between my ham-handed skills (and lack thereof) and the skill built into the opposing AI. This is where the difficulty primarily lies: was the game actually unfairly balanced, or was it just not the right game for me to excel at? Fortunately, prospective customers can try it before they buy it simply by using the free-to-play version. The premier version, which is the version I used, is basically the same game but with most, if not all, of the stuff already unlocked.

On the positive side, the game brings a lot of raw energy and fast action to those that want it. The rounds are similar to jousting: they don’t last very long, but there is a lot of action to be had. A precise aim is going to make a world of difference, but there are few levels of complexity beyond simply shooting at your opponents. There is some level of strategy involved in determining the most suitable vehicles to put in your deck, but the focus is primarily on the tactical element of making sure you kill his tanks before you kill his. Whether this is good or bad is purely a matter of taste.

Vroom Kaboom brings a lot of raw energy and fast action to those that want it. The rounds are similar to jousting: they don’t last very long, but there is a lot of action to be had. A precise aim is going to make a world of difference, but there are few levels of complexity beyond simply shooting at your opponents. There is some level of strategy involved in determining the most suitable vehicles to put in your deck, but the focus is primarily on the tactical element of making sure you kill their tanks before they kills yours. Whether this is good or bad is purely a matter of taste.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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