Dawn brings a new mission. Package received, the clock’s ticking, and a rough journey awaits. Roads are full of vents waiting to blast my vehicle off course. After that, I’ll paraglide with one hand — the other keeping hold of our cargo at all costs. Failure could result in death, but I’m the only one on this island brave enough to deliver the goods. All in a day’s work for a postman working at Totally Reliable Delivery Service.
Joking aside, we’re looking at an open-world sandbox with a focus on playing postman. Red mailboxes are littered across a small island, signifying the start of missions. Each one simply requests that their package be delivered from point A to B. While some are within jogging distance, others would love their ice cubes, explosives, or whatever else to arrive at a flying blimp. Luckily, there are no rules on how it gets there. I can drive, sail, fly, or fling the package out a cannon, for all they care.
Okay, fine, maybe I’ll be a little careful. Money is rewarded based on speed and how well the parcel survives the journey. Weirdly, there’s nowhere to actually spend it. Instead, money is treated as ongoing milestones, with new character customization pieces and vehicles dished out for hitting certain amounts. I didn’t really find these prizes necessary, as Totally Reliable Delivery Service has plenty of quirky options from the beginning. A shop would have at least let me save up for items I wanted to buy. But hey, it’s better than nothing.
About now, you’re probably wondering what the point of playing is? The game sounds kind of cute, but also too easy, right? Well, Totally Reliable Delivery Service adds challenge through Gang Beast like controls and floppy character physics. Hold the triggers to have the corresponding right or left arm grip what’s in front of them. Use the bumpers to raise the arms (and hopefully whatever they’re carrying) into the air. Now make your weeble-wobble man pick up a package, put it in a car, then drive down a road of obstacles. Tricky.
There’s definitely a nod towards titles like Goat Simulator and Human: Fall Flat here. Completing tasks isn’t really the point. Instead, it’s about seeing how much enjoyment you get from the physics systems while knocking friends unconscious with a powerful fart. No, I’m not kidding, that’s a mechanic. Thing is, you can’t just make controls awkward and expect that to produce humor. Difficulty and frustration have to be balanced out with gameplay that can handle the chaos. Totally Reliable Delivery Service doesn’t handle this all too well.
Doing simple tasks with these controls is hard enough. Yet responsiveness issues add to the madness, with my character often deciding not to move forwards or raise his arms. Remembering this, imagine how awkward it would be to get a large box inside a tiny car. Oh, and you can’t push the box. Attempts at doing so will result in your arms twisting backward behind your head. In the end, I ignored most vehicles, grabbed the package, and just made a run for it.
If I can get a parcel into a vehicle, my next task is learning to drive the thing. Cars and boats are a matter of ‘push the joystick and off you go.’ They’re pretty clumsy, yet navigating winding roads and obstacles are decently fun. Learning how to fly, however, is just a pain. I finally figured out that careful left stick wiggles operate the height and steering while nudging the right stick moves the butt with inverted controls. Needless to say, it’s incredibly hard to control and most air-based quests aren’t worth attempting.
Now, I do like Totally Reliable Delivery Service’s toy box world. Visuals are about what you’d expect, but they’re cute and vibrant, which matches the tone well. While not a huge island, there’s still a decent number of areas to explore. A little beach has dune buggies, there’s a hot air balloon in the jungle, and, is that a NASA base? Cue a personal challenge of seeing how high I’m allowed to go in a rocket.
To be fair, Totally Reliable Delivery Service isn’t meant to be played by yourself. There are both local and online multiplayer options for up to four players. So after fumbling around by myself for a few hours, I invited my husband to join in. Two problems were instantly solved. First, everything became genuinely funny, and second, I didn’t have to worry about pushing parcels into vehicles. We squished inside, my husband drove, and I hung onto the cargo. Sorted.
I should admit that we spent more time mucking around with the sandbox than trying to deliver things. See, he threw me off a paraglider. So I might have canceled the mission we were on, just when he was about to succeed. Don’t worry, he fired me out of a cannon for that. We proceeded to let off some steam with a few rounds of ‘Totally not Rocket League’. By this point, we were both in tears of laughter.
Despite having fun, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment. Totally Reliable Delivery Service hasn’t actually been designed for multiplayer. I had expected a way of racing against each other to see who could complete a delivery faster, or perhaps multiple parcels to juggle. But other than wanting an extra person to make the game playable, there’s no need for another person to join in. Frankly, I’ve no idea what a third or fourth player would do. When all missions are very similar, and there’s little else to accomplish than drive around, things start to feel aimless. It’s such a shame when there is a decent amount of creativity going on here.
Adding to complaints, multiplayer is annoyingly glitchy. Split-screen makes the camera go crazy, often settling at a super inconvenient angle. Avatars keep getting stuck under machinery, or are flung into space. At first, it’s pretty funny. Like watching their upside-down body wiggle helplessly while their head is caught in a lift. Amusement fades after happening for the umpteenth time, though, acting as another reason to ignore timed missions.
Totally Reliable Delivery Service is not meant to be taken seriously. In fact, it’s easy to be forgiving while messing around in multiplayer. Yet the longer you play, the harder it is to ignore the build-up of clumsy issues. Before long, those tears of laughter will switch to cries of frustration.
This review is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided to us by TinyBuild Games.
With a friend, there’s enough humor in Totally Reliable Delivery Service to keep you laughing. Yet the aimless world, janky controls, and glitchy nature eventually fall flat.