Based on the movie from DreamWorks Animation about a garden snail who longs to become the fastest racer in the world, Turbo: Super Stunt Squad for 3DS is yet another licensed title that suffers from a lack of working controls, solid visuals and compelling gameplay. While D3Publisher and developer Torus Games have the right idea — what better way to adapt a movie about racing snails than to create a Mario Kart clone? — the experience falls flat in too many areas to recommend at full price to anyone other than non-critical kids, who will enjoy it for a few hours after seeing the film.
Turbo: Super Stunt Squad is structured like Mario Kart or any other kart racer, but without any context. Anyone playing the game who hasn't seen the film won't get much here, as there is no story mode to be found; character biographies or profiles would have been nice, at the very least. There are very few characters to choose from, so a little background would have gone a long way, especially since the only bits of personality we get from the snails come from annoying, frequently repeated one-liners that make little sense. The presentation is poor across the board. The visuals suffer from bland colours and a lack of attention to detail, and when there are more than two things happening at the same time on-screen the frame-rate suffers from slowdown, which is unacceptable given how bland and dull the graphics are. The 3D effect, meanwhile, is best turned off; it's nowhere to be found when going through menus between races, and gives the tracks very little depth during the action. As for the music — the generic racer fare makes for forgettable listening.
There are three cups to complete, with different tracks and slightly more challenging difficulty levels as you progress. Unfortunately, the challenge found in Turbo: Super Stunt Squad comes not from tricky tracks or competitor AI, but from frustrating controls and tedious gameplay. Though it controls like any other racing title would, with buttons to accelerate, slow down, and the D-pad to perform "stunts," it's nearly impossible to make a turn gracefully, even when drifting. There is a constant feeling of not having a handle on the characters, and a "respawn" button is available for when racers go off the rails into the abyss (which happens all too often).
The tracks themselves are cleverly designed, taking place in mundane areas that are oversized to a snail, like a taco restaurant, often going from the floor to the wall to the ceiling. It's too bad, then, that the lack of visual flourish makes the tracks hard to distinguish from one another and the funny, unique areas hard to notice.
Perhaps the most egregious and confounding misstep Turbo: Super Stunt Squad takes is that it completely fails to deliver on its title — there are only four "stunts" to perform, and they're mapped to the D-Pad when going over a ramp. Pressing one D-Pad direction produces a tomato that enlarges the player's snail for a short time; another does a backflip that leaves the snail with a boost item; another provides three protective "taco shells;" and one gives the player a salt/pepper shaker to throw off competitors. The only purpose of these "stunts," then, is to give the player power-ups. There are no combinations, and while it is possible to stack the same item twice or more, there's really no difference. And all the playable racers have the same stunts without any distinguishing characteristic or ability. Even more disappointing is that there are no variations on the four power-ups; you won't be punting a spiked taco shell at anyone.
There are a sprinkling of extras to be found. In addition to the three cups, there are other modes designed to keep the player's attention, such as reversed courses, time trials and quick races; each of the racers also has several different shells that have different handling to switch up the gameplay a bit. There is no multiplayer mode, online or local, which severely limits the replay value of a kart racer.
When licensed titles are developed with more love and care — see the potential of Disney Infinity and some others from studios such as WayForward — it's difficult to play a rushed and dull product like this one. It's destined for the bargain bin once the movie is out of theaters, and there are simply too many good racing titles out there to warrant a purchase. Players are advised to steer clear and spend their time and money elsewhere.