Eurogamer.net

My Summer Car is the most hardcore driving game yet

Datsun also rises.

My vacuum-packed sausages have just made a bid for freedom somewhere along the main road where I'm hurtling along in excess of 60km/h, wriggling their way free of the passenger seat and flinging themselves out of the open door and into the Finnish wilds. Never mind. I'm quite possibly about to die of hunger, but I'm not that fussed. I pick a bottle of beer from the crate that's sitting by my side and take a thirsty glug, flipping the bird at a family sedan. A short while later, I think the family gets its revenge. Reaching down to tune out of the scratchy Finnish pop station I've been listening to the past 20 minutes, I look up too late to see it bearing down on me in what's set to be an unavoidable head-on collision. I've rocketed headfirst through the windscreen before I'm able to get both hands back on the wheel, wiping all the progress I'd made. Gran Turismo was never like this.

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Nico, how on Earth did you turn out so dull when your dad was so cool?

Not that I'd made too much progress. Back home, everything was in an absolute state. The front strut of my special project car was sitting somewhere amidst a nest of loose pistons, I'd lost the fuel line and while trying to fit a subwoofer in the back the front fender popped off of its own accord. My Summer Car is, one level, a maddening Lego set where the instruction booklet has long been tossed away and the blocks have been chewed to pieces by a lovable but mangy family dog. Bolts must be tightened, parts must be put in place and there's a sense of overwhelming joy and achievement just to get the engine idling over.

I've not managed that myself, just yet at least. Making cars is hard, and while I appreciate the depth and detail that's offered in My Summer Car's lavish car building - a side of it that's a savagely difficult hybrid of the brilliant Jalopy and Car Mechanic Simulator - I'm absolutely useless when it comes to the literal nuts and bolts of building a rustbucket. There's another side to My Summer Car, though, that I excel at; the part where it becomes Redneck Finnish Man Simulator, and a side of the game that's stuffed with just as much depth and detail.

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My Summer Car's handling is perhaps not so surprisingly very adept, with a little of BeamNGDrive in its bouncy pliable physics. Every car's a shitbox, but what playful and enjoyable shitboxes they are.

Thanks to the ability to import a photo for your own in-game driving licence in My Summer Car, I've been roleplaying as Keke Rosberg circa 1984 - at the point when the Finnish legend was still chain-smoking cigarettes before strapping himself into 1000bhp turbo bastards and setting laps with an ungodly average speed of 160mph. My heroics in My Summer Car, though, have been a little less spectacular.

Starting up a new game and getting slightly fed up of finding out exactly where the fan belt is sitting in my mess of a garage, I go for a short stroll through the woods to find a little farmhouse where a tractor and van sit beside a rickety workhouse. Inside, there's wood to be chopped and an axe to chop it - all of a sudden that phonecall I got back home from an irate Finnish man asking for delivery of some logs makes a lot more sense - but before I get to work and earn some money that can be spent upgrading my car, what about that bottle of mysterious booze that's sitting in the corner? Down it goes in one gulp, and my legs begin to buckle underneath me. What better place to start a new adventure.

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There are three buttons dedicated to swearing in My Summer Car, because it is the greatest.

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So it's straight back home, packing the vacuum-packed sausages and crate of beer once again before heading out into the wilds. Beyond the world of your house and garage, where your Datsun sits awaiting construction, repair or redemption, My Summer Car is a bawdy survival game where you have to monitor your thirst, hunger and fatigue, as well as your bladder. Stocking up the small panel-beaten blue van parked in the drive with only the bare necessities of live, it's off out into the unknown.

There's no mini-map in My Summer Car, because of course there wouldn't be something so approachable. Instead there's a print-out on the wall of your shack at home that you're free to memorise. It's the great outdoors full of madness and mystery, where you can follow cryptic phone messages in pursuit of more jobs and extra cash. Such is the lack of handholding, sheer challenge and poetic enigma in those wilds it's tempting to call this the Dark Souls of survival car mechanic simulators, though I think from now on it's only fair to say that Dark Souls is the My Summer Car of action RPGs.

It's early days, of course, but there's already so much to love in My Summer Car, a delightfully wilfully abstruse puzzle of game where every car's a shitbox, where everyone is shit-faced and where there are three whole commands dedicated to swearing at passers-by. Like the Datsun-like at the heart of it all, it's more than a little rough around the edges, but you wouldn't really want it any other way.

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