What begins as excellent fun, swiftly turns into frustration with the unwieldy controls.
- Developer: We’re Five Games
- Publisher: TinyBuild Games
- Release date: 1st April 2020
- Genre: Physics Sandbox, Platforming
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X, Windows PC
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
The first hour or two of Totally Reliable Delivery Service is great fun, especially with friends. Bumbling around, crashing the various vehicles on offer and interfering with each other’s characters produces some genuinely laugh out loud moments. Persist with the game, though, and attempt to make any kind of meaningful progression, and you will be continually hampered by not only the unnecessarily unresponsive controls but also by the frequent glitches.
The gameplay loop is very simple – probably overly so. There are little mailboxes dotted around the map, and they will drop a parcel that you then have to deliver, either within a time limit or without damage. That’s basically it. In fairness, some of the deliveries are cleverly thought out, such as one that has you hang on to a Ferris wheel so you can drop a parcel into the centre of the wheel. They could be quite good fun, but when you are constantly fighting the controls just to pick up the delivery items it just makes everything far less fun than it could be.
For example, quite often when exiting a vehicle, it acts as a magnet when you try to move away from it, with some invisible force preventing you from moving away. Even moving short distances, like jumping up to the controls of a vehicle or navigating a platform, is frustratingly awkward, with your character alternating between being unresponsive and suddenly lurching in a direction you didn’t intend.
Many will be picking this up with the impression it is a follow-up from the creator of Human Fall Flat, however, besides the obvious similarity in visual style and bumbling nature of the characters, Totally Reliable Delivery Service has none of the polish and finesse that made Human Fall Flat so much fun. Where HFF offered a surprisingly creative platforming adventure filled with a variety of inventive physics puzzles, TRDS is limited by its premise, with only a few variations on methods of delivery.
Multiplayer is the area where the emergent gameplay of TRDS gets a chance to shine, and I can envisage it being a really fun party game – if it actually worked properly. The developers have, since our TGA playtest, added a disclaimer, stating that due to exceptional demand the servers have been struggling to cope. We can attest to this, as our game was filled with jerky lag manifesting constantly. Allow for the removal of the lag and the game is fun, but still hampered by the controls.
We did have fun for a while playing (not) Rocket League, that they have squeezed into the game, complete with exploding ball and a big scoreboard. The jet car and rockets found at GASA are fun to discover, as is the joy at finding out grabbing fire extinguishers can launch you around the map. There are theme-park inspired rides that you can interact with, too, leading to some hilarious moments as you launch each other’s characters through the air. It really is a crying shame they didn’t refine it all a bit more, because the creativity is there. I just wish the execution was on par with the ambition.
TRDS does offer four-player split-screen co-op in addition to online play, and if you have young kids, they seem to really enjoy the game. It’s a great way to bond with your children, and my two were in hysterics crashing cars into each other, raising drawbridges so the other fell into the water below, and falling over and knocking each other out with farts. They’ve had hours of fun, and they haven’t even attempted a single delivery yet! In fact, they’ve been asking to play TRDS more than their current favourite game, Minecraft, so it obviously has appeal. Hopefully, with a few patches, they can sort out some of these game-breaking glitches and tighten up the controls so the grown-ups in the family can enjoy it too.
There are a lot of customisation options available for your character, unlocked by completing deliveries, and younger players will love switching out their appearance. Achievements in TRDS are fun, and getting the full (or near to it) gamerscore is easily achievable, but it does require you to complete all of the one hundred possible deliveries in the base game. The majority of these deliveries are quite easy to complete, and going for golds adds a bit of replayability, but again, when you’ve missed the gold medal time by a fraction of a second for the tenth time because of the controls or the frequent glitches, it puts you off spending the time going for them.
Graphically, Totally reliable Delivery Service is a cartoony, bold, bright and interesting looking game. Characters are quirky and funny, while vehicles are chunky and distinctive. Unfortunately, in motion, it’s a bit of a mess. We tested on both PC and Xbox One X, and the same issues manifested on both platforms. Despite the relative power of the Xbox One X, it appears to run at around medium settings with the majority of the shadow effects turned off, and it ruins the overall aesthetic. At ultra settings on the PC, with decent draw distance and full shading, it’s actually a decent looking game, but we couldn’t get the game to run smoothly like this on our modestly powered ASUS rig (which easily manages Forza Horizon 4 at Ultra settings).
For such a simplistic game, there is also a crazy amount of texture pop-in that persists throughout all areas of gameplay. Clouds in the distance jump in and out of existence, obstacles in the road spontaneously burst into view, and close up textures often take tens of seconds to fully render. Constant frame drops also plague the experience, both on Xbox and PC. Considering how simple the graphics are, that they haven’t managed to optimise the game any better is inexcusable.
The audio does add to the humour. The puttering spluttering engines represent the plodding performance of the vehicles well, characters grunt and yell as they smash into buildings, get blown up by explosions or plummet through the air, and of course, everybody enjoys a good fart noise. Music is catchy and cheerful, too, and remarkably well-composed. It actually made the game palatable for far longer than I expected it to be.
During testing, I played TRDS (a remarkably fitting acronym) for around 12 hours on the Xbox (unlocking all of the achievements), and for around three hours on the PC. Despite my personal reservations about the game, though, my kids can’t get enough.
Long story short; it’s fun for kids, but a swing and a miss for adults.
Totally Reliable Delivery Service has bags of charm, however, it has unnecessarily clumsy controls that are fun, to begin with, but quickly become frustrating when you actually want to get anything done. It’s fun for a blast with friends, but it won’t be long before you tire of the frequent glitches and clumsy controls.
For free, and as a quick way to have fun with friends, the sandbox gameplay lets you have some hugely entertaining fun, but it is exceptionally short-lived. As a game that you are expected to pay your hard-earned cash for, though, it ironically falls flat at every hurdle.