For some, having a car or any other vehicle in a flight simulator is blasphemy. Cars, buggies, ships, trains, and everything in between should all be left to their respective sim. Sure, there’s value in things such as Forza or Gran Tourismo, and even Train Simulator. But there’s also a sense of fun in bringing elements of various worlds into one ecosystem. This is what I think Parallel 42 is looking for with the release of the Juice Goose – an Electric utility task vehicle (UTV).
This is perhaps one of the first instances of an in-depth product that aims to cater to an audience that may be looking to explore the world in a slightly different way. The question is, how does such a vehicle fit into the world and is it actually a fun product to experience in a world where the primary goal is the be exploring from the sky.
They have already gained plenty of experience with their aircraft tools with their Fox & Fox 2, along with creating various scenery products that accompany bush flights. Parallel 42 is also no stranger to creating products that are more out there than conventional flight sim-based products. They are also behind tools such as Flow and Stripr, meaning the team is well integrated with the ecosystem of the simulator. The Juice Goose combines many of the learnings from these products to create something fairly unique.
As mentioned, the Juice Goose is an electric UTV that is packed with goodies, options and variations to make it unique to you. There are three engine classes, giving you the chance to pick from a more stable and easier-to-control slow UTV, to a much faster and slightly more challenging form of transport. Fundamentally, these are all the same, but the variation in speed will give you the chance to build different skills. I found the faster I went, the more fun I had, but controlling the 500 Speedster (500hp) was a bit more delicate than the others.
Speaking of controls, the optimal way to experience the Juice Goose is with an Xbox controller (or similar). If you’re used to controlling other racing games (namely Forza, if you’re on Xbox), then the control mapping will feel familiar immediately. Use the triggers (bumper/shoulder buttons) to accelerate and brake, whilst the face buttons control things like the E-brake, and if you want an extra boost, then you can add ‘Juice’ to your car for a short burst of energy. The D-pad is reserved for making quick changes to your car such as changing light colours or informing other drivers you’re nearby with the sound of your onboard horn.
The driving force behind the Juice Goose is all about having fun. Being a product designed around driving, it is important that the feeling of roaming the world feels right. I am happy to report that driving the Juice Goose feels great. Whether you’re barging down a beach or riding rocky roads, there is a sensation of driving on different types of surfaces. Speaking of which, your car will kick up dirt or water depending on the environment you’re driving through. These effects look great, especially when you’re doing doughnuts and running rings around friends.
What I found particularly impressive was the physics of your vehicle. When moving around, there’s a weighty feeling, and turning corners requires an element of precision if you want to make sure you pull off the perfect turn. When climbing over rocks or other rugged terrain, you can see your wheels react accordingly, with the suspension doing its job of ensuring your tyres manoeuvre as they should. Hills, drops and other elements will see your UTV roll, move and react just as you would expect. Speaking of, it will often be the case that your car will flip and fall on its roof. Especially when you’re trying to pull off crazy stunts. Fear not as there are a few options available that will help you on your journey.
Configured via the onboard screen of your new car, you can adjust various options. You can enable anti-skid measures, 4-wheel drive, and a number of accessibility options (such as a fully charged battery all the time). You can also use this onboard display to explore different tracks (more on this in a moment), turn on/off lighting, and even use it to customise your car by adjusting the doors, windshield, lighting and more. It has a Tesla feel to it, with a sleek design and clear options. This onboard display also acts as a map to help you navigate the world from this new perspective. I would say that the refresh rate of the map moving needs to be improved, but I imagine this was a way to help ensure performance wasn’t negatively impacted. Regardless, an option to adjust this would be welcome.
None of this would be enjoyable if there wasn’t a bit of depth to the systems. It is clear that this is a product best enjoyed by letting go and taking it for what it is, but you do need to give it a bit of love and care. Temperature, battery use and braking are all taken into account as you drive the UTV. If you want a full tank of Juice to give you that extra boost, you will need to plan accordingly so that you are not pipped at the post at the last minute. Most things run in the background so you don’t have to think too much, but it’s worth keeping an eye on your status page just to be aware.
I mentioned moving to explore different tracks within your newly acquired car. Included as part of the package is a scenery called Juice Bowl (ICAO: 42GB). This is a custom scenery that is full of ramps, flags, onlookers, school buses and more. It has been designed to serve as a way to get to learn the Juice Goose, whilst also providing friends to race together online and test out the circuit. There’s even a massive jumping board that will take a lot of practice to get just right. For as fun as I found the ‘Bowl’, I was hoping for more objects and guidance to direct me to the next area. I often found I was driving for long periods of time, without seeing anything. That said, this is also an area/playground that is designed to allow multiple friends to experience racing in a large space. It will depend on your play style and personal preference. It’s a great introductory area and hopefully, more things like it will appear soon!
Further to the Juice Bowl, Parallel 42 has also spent time refining other areas of the world where real-life UTV tracks are. This has included reshaping terrain, adding/removing trees and injecting other objects. You will race across dunes, rocks and jungles – which is really fun when with friends. I found these areas actually more enjoyable to drive around as the Juice Goose really suited these environments – especially the rocky environments. Hopefully, more of these tracks and trails will come in time. In other parts of the world, your experience will vary. This is a simulator designed to be seen from the sky so areas of poor photogrammetry or low detail may seem like wastelands at first. You will need to do a bit of exploration to find playgrounds that will suit your driving style and desires.
When it comes to the Juice Goose itself, it is clear effort has been made to create a UTV that is as realistic in look as it is in feel. I will say I felt disappointed with some of the interior modelling and texturing – with some of it feeling a bit flat and the geometry not being as sharp as I would like. Specifically, on the areas between the onboard display and lighting control areas. Coming off the back of the excellent Fox & Fox 2, this is one area I was a bit underwhelmed. It is important to note that the interior of real-world UTVs is purposefully designed to be basic inside, making them light in weight. But that said, this is a vehicle I spent most of my time driving from the exterior view and that certainly didn’t impair my enjoyment of the Juice Goose. The lighting effects, the wobbly (and physics-based) antennas look cool, and watching my juice cup react to my awful driving was a lot of fun to watch.
As with any Parallel 42 product, there are other features that give it that fine polish. Small things such as being able to see your mileage with your chosen vehicle, or a visible path line of where you have travelled on your onboard map display are all welcome. My favourite, however, is the onboard speaker. It may not actually be able to connect to your Bluetooth system, but it acts like one. Click the speaker and listen to a loop of fun driving tunes and even links between tracks by a certain DJ Edson. It’s fun, endearing and a nice change of pace from flying all the time.
Fun is the crux of this product. Neither the product nor Parallel 42 are saying this is a serious product for those wanting a hardcore flight sim experience. Instead, this is a product for those wanting to see the world differently, explore in a new way and combine passions for both flying and driving. The environment and world of Microsoft Flight Simulator is suited to travelling in rugged terrain, where the world isn’t perfect – which is what makes the Juice Goose appealing. For $15.00 USD, you’re getting a neat UTV, with plenty of features, system depth, and places to explore that will give you a different reason to boot up your flight simulator.