Turbo Kid Review

Turbo Kid

by Matt Kamen |
Published on

Platforms: PC

To say Turbo Kid is based on a "cult" or "underground" film is to give those words Herculean power. A Canada-New Zealand co-production from 2015, it was a post-apocalyptic quasi-superhero flick following 'The Kid', a BMX-riding scavenger trawling the wasteland who stumbles on the remains of his real-life hero, Turbo Rider. Taking off with his armour and wrist-mounted laser blaster, The Kid sets about rescuing his robot love interest Apple from a water-hoarding warlord played (somehow) by renowned character actor Michael Ironside.

Turbo Kid

With equal dashes of Power RangersMad Max, and Hell Comes to Frogtown, it was a schlocky throwback to the sorts of gory yet somehow camp '80s video nasties you'd find at the back of the rental store, the ones destined to be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. You've never heard of it – no, don't lie, you haven't – which makes the existence of this video game offshoot, arriving almost a decade later, all the more surprising. What's downright shocking, though, is how damn good it is.

Turbo Kid's secret origin may be ultra-cult, but this game deserves a veritable box office breakthrough.

Out of nowhere, Turbo Kid is an immediate candidate for one of the all-time best entries in the Metroidvania genre – think sprawling 2D maps, with key areas blocked off until you gain certain abilities, and challenging boss battles to overcome to gain those abilities, all in the classic style of, well, Metroid or Castlevania. Presented in a glorious 8-bit pixel-art style, evocative of both the film's retro aesthetic and its video game influences, developer Outerminds adds a modern twist with an almost open-world approach, allowing players to pursue objectives in any order they fancy, and impressive ragdoll physics put to staggeringly gruesome effect as you blast apart enemies with a variety of deadly weapons, their limbs and organs flying around the screen in explosions of red pixels.

Turbo Kid

Playing as The Kid – or Apple, in a "non-canon version of the adventure"; the game is apparently precursor to a supposedly upcoming movie sequel – Turbo Kid is an impeccably designed platform adventure. Each jump is pixel-precise, every enemy has specific attack patterns to learn and counter, and the world itself – from the ramshackle community of New Hope to a skatepark ruled by a drug-addicted teen gang, or a twisted church where a self-appointed saviour leads a "Revivalist" movement turning people into horrific cyborgs – is packed with secrets, making it a joy to explore.

The biggest innovation, however, is the inclusion of The Kid's signature BMX. It's not just a faster way of getting around the levels, but an integral traversal mechanic. The bike's momentum will be necessary to make it over gaps that The Kid can't jump over, while power-ups such as spiked wheels allow you to scale vertical surfaces. The focus on the bike also means a host of minigames to hunt down across the wasteland, with time trial races and stunt competitions to beat if you want to unlock everything the game has to offer.

The bike is not without its flaws, though. It's fiddly, especially early on, and by tying some elements of progression to completing those races or scored stunt challenges, can feel overly restrictive – if you're struggling with that aspect of the game, you won’t make it very far. There's far to go, too – Turbo Kid's areas are so vast and labyrinthine that the map screen can't even hope to show it all, even fully zoomed out. Although a degree of backtracking is a signature of Metroidvanias, the allure of reaching a previously inaccessible area with a new ability calling you back to earlier areas, the sheer size, coupled with only a scarce smattering of warp points for fast travel, makes trekking between areas feel like unnecessary padding.

Still, it only slightly mars an otherwise phenomenal example of the genre. Its period-perfect presentation, both visually and thanks to a brilliant chiptune soundtrack, is meticulously crafted, and an absolute delight to get lost in. Turbo Kid's secret origin may be ultra-cult, but this game deserves a veritable box office breakthrough.

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