Announced in this year's PC Gaming Show, Parcel Corps is about bringing home the bacon as a bicycle courier. You can see yourself as either one more anonymous cog in the capitalist machine or a valiant messenger overcoming the villainous competitors vying for tarmacked turf—it's all a matter of perspective.
When you arrive at New Island in this Jet Set Radio-alike, you can take on delivery jobs for one of three corporations: Das-La Poste, a sleek pan-European company staffed by former Olympians looking for a source of income. The East Coast Couriers is a US firm looking to plant its flag on the global stage. And, finally, Wallaby Wheelers, an Anglo-Australian collaboration who aren’t too keen on these upstarts muscling in on their territory.
The corporation you join will send you all across New Island in a race to deliver your packages before customers grow tired of waiting. It’s very Crazy Taxi, updated for the modern gig economy.
Developer BillyGoat Entertainment's director Will Barr wants Parcel Corps to be “pick up and play.” The team has sidestepped mechanics from other cycling games, like balancing and other technicalities that stress the physicality of riding a bike.
“Whenever I jump on a bike, I don't think about any of that stuff; it just kind of happens,” Barr says. “We've tried to make traversal free-flowing and hopefully intuitive as well. We allow you to do silly things like jumping on the side of a wall, it'll automatically start to wall ride along it, and you can just pull off these very acrobatic feats.”
Nevertheless, those looking for a challenge much the same as a perfect stint on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater will find it in the detours across the levels of New Island. “Once you've learned the tools and your arsenal, you're able to find all of these different shortcuts and get across town much faster,” Barr says. “Your mission will give you a route that you can quite happily follow, but the real challenge is when you’re going off-piste and cut down these alleys and jump up, wall ride onto a roof to get over some other obstacle.”
Your green deliveries soon set you against a CEO whose sole mission is to melt the ice caps as quickly as possible to avenge his father, who died in a tragic accident in the polar bear enclosure at a zoo. And, with the police in his pocket, things start getting interesting.
“When Johnny Law starts to clamp down on your day-to-day, and parts of the city become more restrictive, you can't get around as easily,” Barr says. “Similar to games like Jet Set Radio, we crank everything up to 11.”
To make your deliveries on schedule, you’ll need to discover ever more ingenious shortcuts through the city. And like in Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi, a good knowledge of the city will be vital to making your delivery on time and evading the police.
“We’re very much trying to make the player feel superhuman,” Barr says.
As well as the design, BillyGoat Entertainment is trying to match the style of the games which inspired it. “Back in the day, I had a Sega Dreamcast, and I was a big fan of all those colorful, out-there, arcadey experiences,” Barr says. “Particularly with something like Jet Set Radio, you could go back to the HD re-release from the PS3, Xbox 360 era. But, if you play the original now, it still holds up—certainly visually, anyway.
“Life is pretty miserable at the best of times,” Barr says. “Sometimes you just want a nice, colorful video game to sit back and enjoy and just forget about all your crushing real-world problems,” he joked. I’m pretty sure it’s a joke. Seeing that Parcel Corps is about exploitation that countless gig employees endure daily, it can’t be BillyGoat Entertainment’s intention that the rosy reassurances of a retro aesthetic to take away from those realities.