There’s an episode of SpongeBob where he takes a driving test at Mrs Puff’s Boating School, completing a fatally dangerous obstacle course that combines loops, sharp turns, and brick walls – You Suck at Parking is that dialled up to 11. Imagine that course with homing missiles, icy tarmac, swinging pendulums, laser walls, and angry drivers. All while the music repeats that insult, “You suck at parking”, really driving it home.
The premise is pretty simple: park your car in various different spots while avoiding obstacles. But you can’t reverse or stop, you have limited fuel, and there’s a timer. You’re juggling a lot, but it does a great job of easing in these mechanics before kicking up to the highest gear.
It starts off slow and easy, which is more than can be said for my first few driving lessons where I had a chain-smoker take me onto a one-way 60mph road. I didn’t even know how to brake without stalling. You Suck at Parking is no Dave – let’s call him Dave – it lulls you in with quiet roads, plenty of time, and some easy spots to hit. The next few levels introduce windier roads, sharper turns, cliffsides, and other environmental hazards. You get a good feel for the car’s handling, which is buttery smooth, far better than even some triple-A titles in recent years. Just Cause or Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing have nothing on You Suck at Parking. Then wham! You have magnets that pull you off-road, giant Wipeout-like fists that punch at you, and red walls that incinerate your car.
The difficulty keeps ramping up, but it never gets stale or repetitive. There’s always something new to learn and master, which is shocking for how quickly that difficulty spikes. At one point, You Suck at Parking even becomes a bullet hell with totems that fire off red orbs that instantly kill you on contact. You have to avoid them while homing mines tail you. So the Wipeout-fists at the start look pretty tame the further you get. And while it can be a bit of a controller-smashing headache, I couldn’t help but want to keep going because starting over isn’t tedious – you can respawn at the press of a button or restart the whole level via the menu, all without loading or losing lives. It’s difficult but fair, and at any point, you can back out and find another set of levels in the overworld.
You Suck at Parking has a Mario-like structure to its levels. There are themed hubs spread across small islands and you can unlock more islands by earning parking spots. So if any levels prove too difficult, you can always move on and try another, or backpedal to earlier ones that might seem easier now in comparison. There’s a freeness to its design that encourages exploration and trial and error, rather than tedious linearity that keeps you stuck at dead ends. To go back to Dave – let’s keep calling him Dave – it’s a lot like how I kept swapping driving instructors. There’s always another option.
But those islands are a pain to navigate. You don’t have a map and the same rules apply in the overworld as they do the levels – you can’t reverse. So if you hit a wall, you have to respawn your car, all while trying to get on with the game. There’s a lot of abstruseness in the presentation which is especially prevalent in the levels themselves. You can view the whole level from above before starting, but once you get going, that’s it. If you forget where a parking spot is or get confused by the layout, you have no means of viewing it without backing out, erasing any progress made. This makes the trial and error feel less fair, especially if you’re like me and have terrible short-term memory.
You Suck at Parking also lacks identity – the core premise is a retro obstacle course with an old-school 2D GTA feel, but the cars are generic and the billboards are just the game’s logo. Outside of the name, it has little going for it in terms of humour or identity, like that one friend with one joke they just won’t let go of. Throw in the battle pass and silly, but ultimately jumbled and unconnected cosmetics, and you have another uncharacteristic multiplayer game that will muddle together with the others. It’s a shame because the foundations are so strong and the gameplay loop so enticing, but the aesthetic is clean, minimal, and corporate.
I had a lot of fun with You Suck at Parking, something I could stick on for the night and play while passing the controller back and forth with a friend to try and one-up each other when we kept inevitably failing. It has that communal feel, especially with its leaderboards, that will no doubt push people to try and perfect its Deathrun-like level design. I can’t wait to see what community pops up around it, but, unfortunately, I don’t think You Suck at Parking built enough of an identity to leave a lasting impression.
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