GAME NAME: Parking Star 3D
DEVELOPER(S): CIRCLE Ent./Easytech
PUBLISHER(S): CIRCLE Ent
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS, eShop
RELEASE DATE(S): May 8th, 2014
This is another one of those reviews where you get to know me a little better. A few years ago I worked for a car dealership in the service department. My main job was to drive customer and company vehicles around the lot and park them in their intended destination. Sometimes this meant getting vehicles in and out incredibly tight and challenging areas with real consequences. So it may be a personal bias talking, but when I started playing Parking Star 3D, I genuinely had a great time with a title I was expecting to have to labor through!
Parking Star offers a total of forty different stages spread across Beijing, Dubai, Paris, Tokyo and New York. A variety of challenges await you including your time limit, traffic, parallel parking, and even stray animals. The biggest challenge you’ll face is the steering, though. The control scheme is laid out very well on the touch screen (fully interactive!). A brake petal on the left, also mapped to the triggers, a steering wheel in the middle (also mapped to the analog stick), and forward/reverse is on the right, also mapped to either up and down on the directional pad, or the X and B buttons respectively. This gives you a surprising number of options for playing. I was most comfortable just using the stick and face buttons, but there is no reason not to use a stylus to steer and the direction pad for forward and reverse, or any other combination of the controls. I think it’s a great idea for a simple game like this to make several control schemes available simultaneously instead of wasting time flipping through menus to select a style of play. So what is my complaint about the steering? The analog stick has to be rotated like a real steering wheel to turn, which sounds great on paper, but is not as smooth or responsive as a game about steering precision needs to be. This appears to be somewhat intentional considering the time limit, and the fact that control is an upgradable attribute. Surprisingly, I found that it managed to add to the challenge in an enjoyable manner, and did not break the game.
There is an upgrade system implemented that uses the 1-3 stars you earn per stage as a currency. The vehicle upgrades you can purchase either increase your time limit, improve your control, or increase the number of crashes you can make before you fail the stage. Your starting car, a “VW,” has an empty slate, but the Mini, Hummar, and Ferrar (those weren’t typoes) start out with one of the attributes almost completely upgraded. The Mini has the best starting control, the Hummar can take the most hits, and the Ferrar is given the most time.
One more thing that impressed me about Parking Star 3D is the hit detection. It would not necessarily be wrong to assume that a game like this would have sloppy hit detection to artificially increase the challenge or to make upgrades worth spending your currency on. However, this game has incredibly precise hit detection! It is precise to the point where you can be a mere pixel away from an object and still not have collided with it. This dedication in the programming really adds to the tension this game can bring as you slowly try and inch through what appears to be an impossible gap. We’ve all been there in our actual vehicles trying to squeeze into a spot ever so slowly, praying we don’t tap that other car on the way in. It is a very relatable kind of challenge, and I think that’s why even when it can be frustrating, the charm of the game really shines through.
Thankfully, CIRCLE Ent. chose to display this game in a top-down, early GTA style point of view. They even managed to include 3D play, which looks fantastic despite the simple graphics. Even the soundtrack is pleasant. The soft, jazzy (not soft-jazzy) tunes play unobtrusively in the background and with the gameplay being pretty solid, that’s exactly where it stays.
I postulated earlier that my experience as a “professional parker” may be a big part of the reason I enjoyed this game so much, but honestly this game should be pretty relatable to anyone who has ever driven a vehicle. Solid gameplay, a heaping helping of stages, and an upgrade/currency system that isn’t nagging you to spend extra money make Parking Star 3D $2.99 well spent. This game will last you a while as you try and complete each stage as perfectly as you can so you can buy more upgrades for your cars, or cars for your garage. Best of all, it can be enjoyed by just about everyone!