Happy Volcano’s You Suck at Parking is a puzzle driving game, and it delivers fiendishly challenging level design and riotous online multiplayer.
You Suck at Parking’s title is a bit presumptive. I mean, I’ve never professed to be the next Ken Block, but at the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever kerbed a wheel when manoeuvring either.
Ah, wait, no. Come to think of it, I did once scrape a friend’s car along a petrol pump base, so maybe I do in fact suck at parking.
Whether you handbrake turn into your local lot or have never driven a car, one thing is for certain – in the initial 30 minutes, you be spinning around, running out of fuel and crashing into barriers.
That’s part of the appeal. Failing, failing again and then, eventually, sweet, oh so sweet, success.
You Suck at Parking is a top-down driving game by Belgian studio Happy Volcano. That aim, somewhat predictably, is to find car parking spaces. You traverse over small, yet fiendishly designed, levels analogous to a platform game – except with four wheels and an engine.
Each level only lasts a couple of minutes, the aim being to find the two or three parking spaces and stop within, or just on, the lines. You must accomplish this task within a time limit and without running out of fuel.
If you crash, fall off a cliff or even explode into smithereens, you can instantly respawn and press on or restart the level to aim for the perfect golden score. Both are instantaneous, and this lack of loading helps makes it so moreish. That, and the online leaderboards attached to every level.
Curiously, there is no reverse gear. Overshoot the space and nose into a barrier, that’s a reset for you.
You zip between each failed attempt, trying and trying again to park in each level’s spaces without the need for a second attempt. There’s even a semi-open world Overworld that you navigate, finding each new environment which contains groups of levels.
Acquiring all golden spots isn’t a necessity in order to progress – akin to three stars in an Overcooked or Two Point game – so long as you park in each space within the generous time allowance, you will still progress.
But nailing each twist, hairpin, mine, jump and fan without so much as a scratched body panel is supremely satisfying,
Each map ramps up the preposterous nature, with giant magnets that pull you off the ideal trajectory or boxing gloves that push you off the edge. It gets to the point where you need a handful of runs just to find where the parking spots are, never mind perfecting your first run.
Yet this driving caper never gets frustrating enough to give in. There do seem to be difficulty spikes (sometimes you can be stuck on one challenge for half an hour, then ace the next one with your eyes shut) but generally, it teeters on the right side of achievable.
Equally, the vehicle handling is benign, its approachability tempered slightly by an ultimate lack of precision. The slightly elastic responses do at least leave a margin for error.
With over 100 levels out of the box, and more promised post-release, the ingenuity of level design never fails to surprise. Just when you think you’re in the swing of things, police chases are thrown in the mix, or you get turned into an ice cube…
The vehicle choice is slender and there’s no performance advantage to switching between a saloon and a van, for example. Speaking of cosmetic changes, however, there is a Parking Pass which works just like F1 22’s Podium Pass or Rocket League’s Rocket Pass.
As you play through challenges or online matches, you progress through levels that in turn unlock items to refresh the look of your vehicle. Be it paint colours, livery stripes, trails or explosions. There is of course a paid tier for even more visual fripperies, and these will refresh every season.
Either you don’t give a monkey, or you’ll be mad about this. It’s non-essential, so more power to the development team for finding a way that potentially earns revenue without restricting play or offering paid levels. There is also a suite of cosmetic upgrade packs to buy outright too if that’s your thing.
Of course, the real long-term appeal for the Parking Pass will be the online multiplayer, something not part of the initial demo launched way back in early 2021. The mode followed the game’s delay into 2022 and subsequently increased investment.
Up to eight players in total take to some of the wackier level designs in the game across four rounds, with the aim of parking in all nine spots the first.
It’s hilarious, manic and in effect the video game form of Boxing Day sale car parking scrummages. Unlike the real world, however, mercifully you don’t get embroiled in a shouting match or worse an angry letter from an insurance company…
Combined with the XP dished out and the Parking Pass progress, this is designed to be the main dopamine hit that keeps you coming back to the game time after time.
A slight snag at the moment, however, is the lack of pairing up with your list of friends, which will be coming at some point after the game’s release.
One curious omission that was part of the earlier prototype versions of the game is a level creator. This could have fostered a community of players who would create even more devious layouts for anyone to play. I liked that idea, but seemingly, there are now the multiplayer and unlockable skins instead.
Having said that, there’s more than enough here to keep you occupied way beyond what you’d expect for a $19.99/£15.49 release, plus the promise of continued support long after the initial launch.
It all boils down to how moreish the core gameplay mechanic is, and as I sit here typing this review, I’m longing to fire up the game and perfect more of the levels.
You Suck at Parking is a delightfully characterful game, with beguiling level design, accessible handling and an obsessive sensibility.
|Release date||15th September 2022 (PC and Xbox, 2023 for Switch and PlayStation)|
|Available platforms||PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S (PS4, PS5 and Switch to follow)|
|Best played with||Gamepad|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.