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Published 07.12.2021 00:00
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PAKO 3 review

Tree Men Games have graced the App Store with yet another entry in their frenetic driving series. The PAKO games put you behind the wheel of a getaway car and force you to bob and weave your way through traffic to achieve objectives. PAKO 3 really expands the possibility space of what objectives need to be completed while serving up some wild locations to drive in, but with that variety comes a softer aesthetic and a more generic structure that makes the overall experience feel pretty bland.

Can't catch me

PAKO 3 is mostly a game of vehicular keep away. Most levels drop you into a small map and ask you to survive for as long as possible as police cars spawn in to try and wreck you. Levels are pretty tight and packed with environmental hazards, too, making surviving even a minute amidst the chaos a pretty significant achievement.

Controlling your vehicle is extremely straighforward, particularly if you have played a PAKO title before. Your car speeds ahead automatically and your only job is to tap on the sides of the screen to control steering. With only your maneuvering skills, you need to find driving lines, dodge objects, and hop over obstacles to try and keep the heat off of you. There's also powerups that spawn into levels every so often that can give you weapons to fend off the authorities for a limited amount of time.

Vehicular variety

Every level in PAKO 3 has certain tiers of achievement you can reach, and each one rewards you with stars. These stars act as the overall progression system in the game. As you earn more of them, more levels and vehicles become available to you. As more levels become available, certain other kinds of objectives start to appear, like racing challenges and boss fights, while every new vehicle comes with its own, distinct stats that can help give you an edge on specific kinds of challenges.

As you start to unlock more and more things in PAKO 3, the game gets increasingly more extreme and over-the-top. Initial levels appear like normal roadways in a town or city but later levels have you hopping between ferries or spinning donuts on an oil rig full of giant circular saws. The vehicles in the game follow a similar progression, though not nearly to the same degree as the level design.

Driving in circles

As a free-to-play game, PAKO 3 asks you to put a lot of time and effort into playing it in order to unlock and see everything it has to offer. Levels are only gated by stars, but vehicles unlock via stars and ask you to buy them with in-game currency once they are available. To help ease some of this grinding, PAKO 3 thankfully grants players a random car they've unlocked for free once a day, but playing challenges--particularly early on when only a handful of things are available--can feel like a slog.

Of course, you can also opt to buy out of PAKO 3's progression system entirely and unlock everything $3.99. I'm not entirely sure this is a worthwhile investment, though, because variety isn't the only thing this game is lacking. Part of what make the PAKO games stand out was their rough-and-hard aesthetic and none of that is here in PAKO 3. The game's structure also feels more akin to almost every other casual mobile title, making it feel less like a distinct experience and more like a driving-focused version of Crossy Road or Painty Mob.

The bottom line

In a lot of ways PAKO 3 feels like a sign that the driving action Tree Men Games has been delivering for years has already been achieved in their earlier work. The chaos here feels a little overly designed and somewhat forced, to the point that it doesn't really feel like it has a distinct personality or original ideas to add into the existing formula.

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