Most games fit neatly into one genre or another. Sports games and racing games are immediately recognisable from their covers. Car = racing. Golfer = golf. Its become commonplace for many modern games to enhance the experience by borrowing features from other genres. Roleplaying games are must more accessible with action-based combat. Adding roleplaying elements and skill trees is a great way to add depth to an experience. Some games go all in, though, mashing together two genres to create something truly unique. Road Trip Adventure is one such game.
Road Trip Adventure is most succinctly described as a racer-adventure game. The cars are based on a Japanese toy line of miniature cars. They are also sentient. Think of Pixar’s Cars except the cars don’t have faces and its unclear how they’re talking. Not content to simply let you select races from a menu, there’s a pretty sizeable open-world to traverse. You drive between the towns to move on to the next race and buy better parts – that’s the core gameplay loop. You can also drive in to many houses to chat to “locals” and perform tasks for them. That’s where the ‘Adventure’ comes in. By finding hidden coins or getting ‘stamps’ in your logbook you’re rewarded for stretching your legs (tires?).
The bare-bones plot is a masterclass in minimal storytelling. The president (also a car) is sick of his job. The solution he comes up with is to stage a race, with the winner becoming the new president. Simple. Finish in 6th or higher in all the races, across 3 ranks, and you race el presidente himself. Road Trip Adventure‘s plot would be unsatisfactory for other kinds of game. There is no deep lore or ambitious backstory. We are not forced to ask who is this president? Why do we want the job he so casually resigns? Its a straightforward premise that puts a slightly different spin on ‘be the fastest car’.
The most compelling aspect of the game is its sheer charm. The confidence it exhibits in its bizarre world. It makes everything inherently amusing. One side experience you can indulge in is to visit a photo booth to take a souvenir photograph for your album. The image of a generic looking car posing blankly in front of a local landmark is both strange and wonderful. The game is full of these little touches. Another example is the way the game asks you to name the currency. It was initially a little baffling. The prompt follows immediately after naming your character – I wasn’t ready to be making decisions that affected the entire economy.
Overall its hard not to recommend Road Trip Adventure. It won’t be for everyone, and even if you enjoy it there might not be enough here for you to stick it out ’til the end. Its the type of game that’s crying out for a new entry – I’d love to see what advancements in hardware could do for a game like this. Like all the most unique gaming experiences its something you need to try, at least once, just for the hell of it. Its gratifyingly cheap game to pick up second hand, so if you’re looking for something to mess around with on the Playstation 2 Road Trip Adventure would be ideal.