Review: Parking Mania
Parking Mania is well known in the mobile world, having already existed in the iPhone and Android ecosystems and done very well, so it's only natural that it should appear on the 'third' ecosystem as well. It's a classic game scenario: part puzzle, part arcade and 100% frustration. It's also fair to say that if parking your real life car in a tight space is your idea of hell then it's probably a good idea to give Parking Mania a miss too!
Taking the traditional idea of a driving game and turning it on its head, Parking Mania sees you controlling various (up to 80, apparently) vehicles at extremely slow speeds, with the aim being to manoeuvre around obstacles and, eventually, park each vehicle in the spaces indicated. Think of reversing into a real life car park space - if you accomplish this with a sense of satisfaction and relish the challenge then you'll fall in love with Parking Mania. The converse is true too - if you hate parking then stay away, of course.
Before you dismiss Parking Mania as 'boring' though, note that the title is anything but. Every one of the hundreds of levels is immaculately designed, from the decorated cars and trucks to the seasonal scenery to the puzzle design itself, pitched to provide challenge after challenge. Even within a level, you'll meet an objective and then be hit with another one... and another. The surprises keep coming.
Control of your current vehicle is best done with the phone's accelerometer (i.e. tilting from side to side, as if manipulating a steering wheel), with your right thumb on the throttle pedal. It's very intuitive, though there's a slight simplification from a real vehicle in that if you slide the 'pedal' down from the resting position you get reverse gear. Well thought out though and at no point was I fighting the interface itself.
Other vehicles behave realistically, slowing to let you into traffic and beeping their horn if you drive too erratically. Minor bumps are accompanied by the phone vibrating and suitable sound effects - oops. Still, at least you don't have to keep getting out and exchanging insurance details with every other driver here! Collect too many small bumps or get involved in something major (e.g. hitting a truck) and it's back to try the level all over again.
Waxing lyrical over the gameplay and level design might be seen as over the top if this was a brand new title, but Parking Mania's lateness to Windows Phone at least has the huge advantage that it's now incredibly mature. All rough edges have been knocked off, all level glitches fixed, the gameplay perfectly pitched for longevity, and so on. At every turn (see what I did there?) arrows on the road give hints as to where to go next, challenges are clearly flashed onto the screen and there's (thankfully) some leeway in how accurately you have to arrive in the destination parking space.
Bonus 'coins' are scattered around the levels, though it's not immediately apparent what collecting these brings, since there's no 'upgrade' system. Still, if you're after completing perfect levels with all monies gathered, that's another challenge to try and hit...
I'd love to claim that I made it the whole way through Parking Mania, but there are hundreds of hours of gameplay here - I made it through the first twenty of so levels in the review period - so there are no worries over value for money here.
I was very glad to see that Parking Mania fully supports the 'fast app switching' system in Windows Phone, so by pressing and holding 'Back' it's possible to come immediately back to where you got to in the game. Tap on the game's icon or title elsewhere on the phone and you have to endure the twenty second startup all over again, though at least your level progress is remembered, so you only have to start the current one again.
Although a 'parking' game won't be for everyone, note that the challenges here are wider than you might think and in terms of implementation Parking Mania is almost perfect. Repeat, perfect. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at