PAKO – Prepare to crash

A couple of months ago we found ourselves at the PG Connects conference in Helsinki, where got a first hand glimpse at who are the newcomers in the local mobile games scene. In the showcase room, there were several new, cool games we summed up in this article, but now, months later, only PAKO remains in our phones (geared with decent high-scores if I might add).

PAKO, which is Finnish for “the escape”, is the single player car chase high score hunt for touch screen devices, developed by Finnish game studio TreeMenGames. Until today, the game was only available on Windows phone, but the game has now finally been re-launched on both Windows and iOS. The new release includes a major front-end re-design, as well as four entirely new levels, all with slightly different gameplay.

The way I would describe PAKO would be an oblique combination of dark souls and flappy bird:
picture an infuriatingly difficult game where nearly every tiny mistake will have you killed, but with controls so simple that it takes only a couple of tries to get the hang of it, after which you begin your slow, yet sufficiently visible improvement of your in-game performance.

Basically, in PAKO you control a moving car that has no brakes: just the possibility to turn right or left. The car is stuck in a cul de sac, which depending on the level can be anything from a mall parking lot to a graveyard. And as if dodging the numerous obstacles with a car that cannot stop wasn’t enough, you’re also being chased by cops. Many, many cops.

It is not clear why you’re being chased, but the objective of the game on the other hand is clear as crystal: survive for as long as possible (which for the first twenty or so games will probably be on the lower end of one minute).

The game universe is built from cubical graphics, tinted with retro 80’s colour contrasts; a news helicopter view over your car, and an 8-beat electro-synth soundtrack littered with the constant sounds of police cars.  They make up for a stylish addition that really doesn’t overdo the overall feeling of the game. Or in other words, it’s pretty cool.

“The free version of PAKO has 5000 reviews averaging 4.7/5 and has been downloaded over 125 000 times. The premium version was released last Friday and so far it has been quite successful. The game is normally priced €1.99, but there’s a limited time launch sale, so for now the price is €0.99.”, PAKO producer Jussi Pullinen told us via email.

The rating success frankly does not surprise me, even if I’m personally not the game’s biggest fan. Editor’s note: Rafael can’t handle the rest of the office’s skill. The looks and sounds match up perfectly, the gameplay is very straightforward; matches are quick to put you back in the action, and yet the game is clearly more difficult than most mobile games, something I believe gaming orientated communities can really come to appreciate.

Pullinen says TreeMenGames is now concentrating on producing new content for the game, which will later become available as free updates, and he also suggests the Android version of the app isn’t too far away either. He adds that the studio has been paying attention to console downloadable games for Xbox One and PS4, which they will look more into once they get their hands on the development kits.

“On the side we are starting up again with a project we were doing before PAKO, but that’s another story and you will know more about that later”, Pullinen finishes.

PAKO is one of those strange hate/love relationships you seldom encounter and grow to appreciate. You’ll hate it for never giving you what you want, which is the very same reason you’ll love it.