D3Publisher's Turbo: Super Stunt Squad for Wii U is the HD cousin of the poorly received 3DS racer of the same name. Expectations were kept low for the title, due to the handheld edition's lacklustre visuals, infuriatingly imprecise controls and lack of any actual "stunts." But Turbo: Super Stunt Squad for Wii U is a pleasant surprise, with immensely improved production values, more variety, and entirely different gameplay. Whereas the 3DS edition is a compromised Mario Kart clone, the Wii U adaptation takes its inspiration from the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, replacing skateboards with the titular snail and his friends. This movie tie-in is far from perfect, but with the Wii U library still seeking more content and variety, it may prove a fun diversion until the big guns start rolling out.
Because there is no instruction in the main game, the tutorial mode is highly recommended for those who aren't familiar with the Tony Hawk series. The tutorial goes over the basics — accelerate with ZR, press B to jump — and also introduces the more complex systems, like grinding on rails, riding walls and landing on higher platforms. The tutorial is helpful, but doesn't go nearly far enough in its explanations. There are many different obstacles in the campaign, and most aren't even mentioned during the tutorial, save for the occasional text box after each practice that will casually mention a mechanic that should be its focus.
Gameplay takes place in large, multi-level stages filled with ramps, slopes, boosts, environmental hazards and collectibles. Each stage has a list of objectives, most of which revolve around collecting certain items within the 3-minute time limit, achieving a certain combo score, landing a difficult jump and finding all the main areas of the stage. While completing these objectives is fun, there's not a ton of diversity; every stage, for example, tasks the player with finding the letters "T U R B O," finding five of a specific item related to the stage's theme, finding five power-up tokens... the list goes on. The variety comes in the unique design of each stage, like a taco restaurant, nail salon and hobby shop (all of which are locations from the movie).
Each stage is intricately designed, and for the most part offer different experiences from each other. They're also nicely detailed and creative, with small items looming large over the tiny heroes; unfortunately, the stages are littered with cheap gaps and holes that will likely derail whatever progress the player has made. Turbo and the rest of the cast are small snails, yes, but the physics involved here are way too unforgiving, with characters getting knocked off perfectly wide paths after lightly hitting an obstacle. Each snail handles slightly differently, which allows for experimentation in completing objectives with different characters, but it's still way too easy to get derailed for the slightest hiccup in movement.
Players can choose to play each stage freely or timed, but most objectives can't be completed in free play. The 3-minute time limit is more than enough to accomplish more than one objective per run, but it helps to go through each stage without the time limit to explore and find shortcuts and tricks. There are also free play-specific objectives, but the two styles of play can only extend the experience so much when there are only five stages to complete. Each is unlocked after completing a certain amount of objectives — and there are plenty of objectives — but it's all over far too soon. The GamePad, meanwhile, displays active objectives, and allows the player to take "snapshots" of the game in action, though there's no point in doing so. Off-TV play is supported, as well.
Playing through the main game does unlock some extras. Each snail has several different shells and can attach "stickers" to them (although they're basically unnoticeable) and there are "trophies" for completing certain requirements, such as a high score or combo. There is a two-player mode with customisable challenges, but it's restricted to local play, likely because this is a title that is aimed at a younger audience. There's no story to be found, so knowledge of the movie is expected.
There are several different music tracks that can be changed with the D-pad at any point in the game, but they all have a generic, light hip-hop tone. The voice acting is fine (though none of the actors from the film lend their voices), but be prepared to hear the same few phrases over and over again, occasionally at an inappropriate time — "Ohh, yeah! Awesome!" is not the response most would have after missing a jump at the very top of the stage and plummeting to the bottom.
While it falls into several movie tie-in trappings — limited content, somewhat sloppy presentation — this title should not be written off as a throwaway cash-in. Younger players may have trouble grasping the controls, but will likely enjoy playing through the film's locales with their favourite characters from the movie. This is a noble effort from developer Monkey Bar Games, who shouldn't be penalized for using the Tony Hawk template; after all, games of that genre have become few and far between in recent years. So if you've been burned by the 3DS game, give Turbo: Super Stunt Squad for Wii U a try.