Do the police need to explain? You know what you did
Does PAKO stand for something? My best guess is Pretty Awesome Knock Out driving game, but if the developer Tree Men Games can let me know then that'd be great. They are based out of Finland so maybe PAKO means something there? Either way this mobile game released on December 2nd 2021 and is PAKoing a ton of fun with it's quick "try-die-repeat" gameplay.
PAKO 3 is actually the 4th game in the PAKO franchise, and it's an isometric car chase driving game where you usually have to avoid dozens of cops. What did you do to have dozens of cops chasing you? PAKO 3 doesn't tell you, but the game is rated 12+ so we can only assume it wasn't something too terrible. Or was it?!
Bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do
PAKO 3 features incredibly simple controls and a somewhat difficult learning curve. I know that Tree Men Games has developed several of these games by this point, so some gamers may already be familiar with the gameplay, but I personally found that despite the simple controls they also provided a bit of pushback in terms of actually handling your vehicle. You are driving a car which moves forward automatically and you only have control over turning left and right. As we already know because you are a dirty criminal, you are also being chased by dozens of cop cars and must evade them for long enough to earn 1 to 3 stars in each stage. The stars can be obtained depending on how long you last in each stage's objective, and not every single stage involves evading atonement for your sins. Why else would the cops be chasing you?!
Swerving off the road
I found that the controls take some getting used to for two reasons - The first is because there are tons of cars to earn and use in each stage. Despite this game only using two "buttons" (left and right) I found that many cars felt VERY different to control. Each vehicle has different stats for speed/health/handling and the game does a good job of pushing you to use vehicles that focus on each type. Typically in any driving game I prefer to use cars with good handling because I like to feel in control of where I'm driving, but PAKO 3 features some stages (such as races) that forced me to try out cars with higher speed. I do wish there was more variety in the way the vehicles look (most of them are similar boxy designs). In the end the Rat Racer was my preferred vehicle because it balanced all 3 stats, but it still wasn't the optimal choice every time.
The second reason that I had some frustration with the controls is because of the graphics. Now don't get me wrong, PAKO 3 is going for a 70s vibe and I am HERE FOR IT. I love the overall look that the game has, and I think overall the isometric style works well for this type of gameplay. That said, I often that in every few stages the isometric viewpoint actually made it difficult to gauge where some walls were or where I might drive off a cliff. So while I understand the choice to make the game isometric, I also think that some stages can do a better job of communicating where the player can drive. I would often slam into a wall that I thought was a small hill. That said, I think that this problem comes with the territory of the isometric view and it's likely difficult to solve entirely across the whole game. IF/when PAKO 4 comes out, I hope that Tree Men Games consider a "behind the car" view because I feel confident that it would not only shake up the gameplay but I would also drive better.
It'sa me PAKO-o
Having played through all of the stages, it's clear to me that Tree Men Games is attempting to take a page out of Nintendo's book by introducing unique mechanics in many stages that are featured just that once before the game moves on to a new concept. And I think it's in these stages that PAKO 3 is actually the most fun. Just to name a few, the Danger Zone stage features a runway with planes taking off/landing that you need to avoid, Ferry Zone introduces a ship that you can briefly jump off of but then need to get back on before it leaves you, and a few stages even include boss fights.
The game also briefly attempts some visual storytelling with its Sprint #2: Gridlock stage featuring a huge wreck of burning/destroyed cars, but it could go so much further. This is a stage that Tree Men Game may want to revisit for the inevitable PAKO 4. Regardless of the potential for more visual storytelling, the Nintendo-style approach to many stages featuring unique mechanics largely works in the game's favor. I only found the game's set of racing stages a bit tiresome, as I don't particularly think the gameplay lends itself well enough to racing/time trials in its current state.
Living on the edge of tomorrow
While I might have died 100 times leading up to the game's final stages, PAKO 3 ramps up the difficulty near the end with an even stronger emphasis on live-die-repeat. I probably died at least 100 times trying to get a measly 1 star in Sprint #3: The Machine, and then when I finally did win by the skin of my teeth (by 19 milliseconds!!) I saw that I was ranked 110 on the leaderboard for that stage. So while I was initially a bit pushed away by the game's controls, it does force you to master them in the end. It's really cool that each stage has its own leaderboard too, so I know that at least 5,000 people have probably played PAKO 3 just based on my ranking in the first stage.
Last point - PAKO 3 is free to play, but I was immediately annoyed by the ads so I paid the few bucks (which is what everyone should do) to remove them. PAKO 3 is easily worth the money for its quick pick up and play sessions that can either last 30 seconds or several hours as you attempt to earn stars/climb the leaderboards. I highly recommend this game to just about anyone, whether you are a seasoned gamer looking for a new arcade addiction or a grandma tired of crushing candy.
Quick 30-60 second play sessions
Variety of mechanics to spice up later levels
Initial push back from the game - Controls can take some adjusting to
Isometric view occasionally makes it hard to see obstacles