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Score: 48%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Creat Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local Only)
Genre: Action/ Racing/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
"Never judge a book by its cover." That ancient adage is often used to teach a highly judgmental person to appreciate beauty that is skin-deep. TerRover is a sobering and painful reversal of that old axiom. To be sure, its cute and cheery style will appeal to your sympathies. Underneath this facade, however, is a torture machine the likes of which I haven't seen in years.

The only praise I have for TerRover has to do with its presentation. For starters, it looks great. It's got a pure color scheme and sports a similar aesthetic to games like LocoRoco, Patapon, and PixelJunk Shooter. It really looks fantastic. The TerRovers themselves look like they've been pulled out of photo negatives; they stand out quite nicely against the environments they (struggle to) traverse. Their faces animate appropriately, and they will often be mirror images of the faces you'll be making when you get hopelessly stuck in a cramped tunnel or blown to pieces by a swiftly-moving cog.

TerRover sounds as charming as it looks. The TerRovers sound like remote control cars, which is a good fit for their simplistic designs. The soundtrack is above average, but it's nothing that will have you shopping for an expensive pair of high-quality headphones. It's functional, but forgettable.

TerRovers are all-purpose space off-roaders (purposes unknown) who are on the brink of losing their planet to some mysterious planet-killing malady. Your job is to guide them through a number of different planets activating Location Finders that have been hidden by ancient TerRovers over the course of history. By doing so, you will find a new home for these vehicles. This paper-thin story serves as an excuse to get from the beginning of each level to the end. What's truly weird about the structure of this game is how you unceremoniously jump from world to world. Each of the planets has a number of levels to beat, but you'll never stay on one for long before moving to another planet.

Conceptually, TerRover bears a slight resemblance to an iPhone game that I get a lot of use out of: JellyCar. Like that game, TerRover is a physics-based racer that puts the player behind the wheel of a bizarre vehicle in an even more bizarre environment. The objective? Get to the end. Simple, right? Well, it would be if the controls were workable and the level design wasn't so poor. Unpredictable high-speed jumps, claustrophobia-inducing tunnels, and Rube Goldberg-esque monstrosities only add to the frustration.

If you want to spread the misery, there are a few multiplayer modes in which up to four people can get frustrated. Racing is a four-player mode that simply pits everyone against each other in a race to the finish. Points are scored when other players meet their end or fall behind the parameters set by the camera, which is tethered to the leader of the race. Trial is a two-player split-screen mode that has players competing to reach the end of an obstacle course. Finally, there's HotPoint, a four-player mode that feels a bit like Mario Bros.: only with the imprecise mechanics of TerRover. Players are dropped into an arena in which stars randomly appear. The first to ten wins.

TerRover is Trials HD with a busted physics engine. This is a game that will have you hurling your controller across the room. There's an awful lot of luck involved; success largely depends on your having your vehicle placed in the right position, facing the right way, at exactly the right time. Oftentimes, every time you miss that tiny window of opportunity, that's enough to force a level restart.

TerRover's difficulty level is cheap and brutally unfair. I avoid using these words when describing a game's challenge level. However, when it affects the overall level of enjoyment to this extent, I have to pull out the big guns. This game just isn't any fun to play because of how unfair it is.

Game Mechanics:
TerRover will leave you with a questionable first impression in the tutorial stage. When you start moving, you'll get the sense that the TerRovers themselves suffer from uneven weight distribution. As you wiggle the Left Analog Stick back and forth, you'll notice that the controls are hypersensitive. This doesn't augur well for the rest of the game; precision and timing go hand in hand, and if you make a mistake with one of them, you will be destroyed. While there's a braking button, it doesn't allow you to reverse your position. You'll have to switch direction (the game lets you do this horizontally and vertically), which usually agitates the game's physics system and forces your TerRover to go into a wheelie. Finding each obstacle's torque sweet spot is incredibly difficult, and when speed is a factor in your success, it becomes maddening. You'll find yourself flopping around wildly in your attempts to crest a simple hill. If the option to alter the sensitivity could be changed, perhaps TerRover could have had a chance at redeeming itself.

Nuts are TerRover's currency. These are scattered around each level, much like coins or rings; they can be spent in the Doodads Menu on a brand new TerRover chassis. A good chassis can make all the difference in TerRover. Buying a chassis with guns and grappling hooks can make some of the levels a bit easier. Unfortunately, with a game as difficult as this, "a bit easier" just doesn't cut it.

TerRover is a game you'll want to love. However, the game simply won't let you love it. Usually when a game is difficult, success is extremely sweet. At the end of each brutal trial-and-error exercise, I only felt a headache coming on. Ultimately, I ended up dreading my time with TerRover. If that's not a bad sign, I don't know what is.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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