Racing games are about as old as time (disclaimer: I’m not much of a history buff). As such, gamers are no strangers to various forms of terrain tearing, whether it be by go-kart, speedboat, or whatever the latest fancy sports car I’ll never be able to afford is called. The point being, racing games aren’t anything “new,” so it takes something pretty special to catch my eye before moving on to more preferable genres. (Although for the record, I enjoy a good Mario Kart tournament every now and again.) While I was scoping out the games on display at Game Connection Europe, I came across What on Earth! and decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did.
On the surface, What on Earth! feels a bit like Trials Evolution, in terms of the whole “get from A-to-B without crashing using a realistic physics engine” objective. But that’s only the least important aspect of the game. The bread-and-butter of What on Earth! comes from the level editor and social sharing tools that are available. The game features an incredibly intuitive level designer, which lets users create and customize tracks using a variety of options. You can create small, medium, or large tracks, then customize and combine multiple terrain types, and finally decide whether the goal is to simply reach the objective marker, or collect a number of stars along the way. These tracks, challenges, and tournaments can then be uploaded to the game’s database, voted on by both the developers and users, and eventually rated for difficulty and fun factor before being available from the main menu.
Traplight Games, the studio behind What on Earth!, is betting all their marbles on user-generated content. The game will launch with basic introductory stages, and then the rest will be up to the public to create. Even the “campaign” mode will pull and adapt user-generated content to determine the progression of stages. Fortunately, the level-editing is simple and enjoyable enough that you can create engaging tracks within minutes, so it won’t take more than a handful of enthusiasts to come up with an assortment of content updates. Thanks to a handy scroll wheel on the left-hand side for item/terrain selection, and the ability to zoom in and out while building the track, I was creating basic stages almost instantaneously. While the demo I played had all of the customization items unlocked from the start, the final game will require players to compete in tournaments and complete challenges to earn additional editing options. (Everything can be unlocked in-game.)
Speaking of the campaign, the little aliens that are featured come complete with their own quirky backstory. According to Traplight’s description of the game, “What on Earth! tells the story of a curious extraterrestrial race who discover Voyager, a space probe launched into outer space by NASA. Through TV transmissions captured by the Voyager’s satellite, the friendly aliens get glimpses of quirky human habits, and begin studying the various — and sometimes dangerous — pastimes they witness in the Earthly broadcasts.” Inevitably, this leads them to embrace their inner Evel Knievel and attempt some rather risky stunts. It also leaves room for expanding the What on Earth! universe, as these guys are willing to try just about anything they see on TV. Odds are, that won’t always be racing related…
What on Earth! will begin its journey on iOS in 2015, with Android support in the works provided there is enough interest in the game at launch. If you’d like to keep track (look Master Splinter, I made a funny!) of the game’s progress, you can check out the developer’s website, and also follow along on Twitter. You can also “like” Traplight Games on Facebook and, if you’re feeling exceptionally daring, subscribe to their channel on YouTube.