Echoes of the Jet Car Stunts’ original platform, the iPhone, are obvious. The game runs at 1080p, but the visuals otherwise lackluster. A low-poly car drives through a floating world of single tone boxes, in a bland skybox. Controls are responsive, but they aren’t translated to the controller perfectly. If you attempt to accelerate before a level’s starting countdown is finished you wont move. It wasn’t too much trouble getting used to this, but it is a bit of a nuisance for a game built on time trials. Steering is a binary affair. You will turn at the same rate regardless of how far you have tilted the control stick. In Jet Car Stunts HD you will be racing through short platforming levels. You have a boost meter that slowly depletes while used, and refills at checkpoints. You will spend a fair amount of time in the air, flying through hoops, over obstacles, and onto platforms. None of it will control particularly well, the Camera will fight you, and the difficulty curve will be upsettingly unbalanced, but the punishing arcade challenge might be enough to keep you coming back for more.

As a young child my favorite games were Sega games. Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Hydro Thunder, and Star Wars Pod racing dominated my gaming experience. Nail-biting trial and error gameplay is not anything I am unfamiliar with. There are some things that the best fast paced arcade style games do to stay engaging that Jet Car Stunts doesn’t always do. You only get ten retires from you last checkpoint per level. These levels are pretty short, but a lot of the platforming you will be doing will feel like guesswork. Having to start all over again before you get the full “feel” of a level is probably more punishment than the player needs.

Restarting from the beginning by using the designated checkpoint restart button doesn’t reset your overall track time or the number of restarts you have used. If you want this cleared you have to go into the pause menu and select “restart level”. It isn’t a horrible usability issue at first, but this is a game that is built for controller cracking challenge. These games work when the user interface is sleek enough to get right back in the game instantly. Once you have enough time to think you should take a break for the sake of your heart health, you do. There might be enough content here to justify the $7 USD expense, but it isn’t all good. The platforming game mode feels the least half baked, yet it only offers two handfuls of levels. The Collector game mode is so challenging it barely functions, and the Time Trial mode sounds straightforward on paper, but works very poorly in practice. Doing 3-7 laps of any of these courses offers too many opportunities for you to go flying to your death. They work as platforming courses, not as raceways. The ten try limit took the remainder of goodwill I felt towards the Time Trial Mode away.

What’s wrong with the Collector game mode you ask? It’s built on flying around courses picking up stars. Courses are a series of floating blocks and platforms without any barriers. Landing on anything and staying still is nearly impossible, and flying with any kind of accuracy is impossible. This is a game mode designed for Mario, not a race car. The Collector game mode just doesn’t work in Jet Car Stunts’ current framework. There isn’t much more to the game. Music is poor, and it often cuts in and out. There isn’t a ton of level content, and what is here isn’t great. I don’t mind that the focus is purely on gameplay, but I wish said gameplay were more engaging. Visuals are so poor it looks like it would be at home on the Sega Dreamcast. Yet that would be excusable in a budget title if the game itself were good.

Jet Car Stunts has a sound core concept, but the levels keep it from being anything special. I may check out the sequel, which is already on iOS, to see if levels improve. As it is, the car handling needs to change to serve the demanding nature of these levels, or the levels need to change to serve the challenging core gameplay better. The right balance has not been struck in Jet Car Stunts. While the genre isn’t huge, the racing platformer is filled with free and cheap games, with significant amounts of content. The standard for these games is high, and Jet Car Stunts just doesn’t meet it.