Developer: XMG Studio
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 3.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Drag Racer: Pro Tuner isn’t strictly a racing game. At least not in the way that you’d anticipate. No, this is a game all about timing. Pinpoint accurate timing.

There’s no steering to be seen here because – as the name suggests – this is a title about drag racing. Instead it’s all about changing gears at just the right moment and accelerating past your opponent, blowing dust in their face.

The game takes a side view perspective where you can see the two cars racing alongside each other. With your left hand/fingers controlling the accelerator and your right hand/fingers changing gears as well as activating the nitro boost, controls are immediately intuitive. That doesn’t mean the game is easy however. It’s actually pretty tough starting out. With no upgrades at your disposal, extremely accurate taps of your finger are vital to your success. The accelerator needle turns blue when you’re at an optimal level of revs on the starting line, but it’s a tricky matter to hit this sweet spot every time. When racing, changing up a gear when the needle turns green is the ideal time to shift a gear but again it’s not as easy as it sounds.

It is however immensely satisfying watching your car overtake your opponent. As you steadily improve in your abilities, so does your car’s capabilities and the amount of tournaments on offer. Each win provides you with money to upgrade your car and the amount of upgrades is pretty impressive. Car nuts will love it as you can upgrade pretty much everything possible from the exhaust and turbo to the drivetrain and flywheel. You can also go so far as to tune the gear ratios and pressure or downforce of the vehicle. There are a lot of vehicles to buy too, with even bikes unlockable once you’ve got enough money to buy them. While the vehicles don’t use familiar names, it’s pretty easy to recognise what each car is meant to be, especially if you know your cars. Once you’ve acquired a cool new car, you can then paint it, adjust its height and so on, just what you’d expect to be able to do in real racing really.

If you fancy bypassing all the hard work, you can always pick up a lot of bonuses if you don’t mind paying real money, such as extra credits for the game, bikes, trucks and new decals.

Drag Racer: Pro Tuner is a heck of a lot of fun, once you put the effort in. It’s not an easy game to master by any means. It takes some patience in the early stages and it would have been nice if the game had eased you in a bit more gently. While you can turn the difficulty down by choosing weaker opponents, you also miss out on decent credits (understandably) so it takes a lot of racing to really get anywhere. Once you do though, it’s really quite compelling and fun to play. My only real quibble is that screenshots on iTunes suggest that the game offers multiplayer over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth which I can’t find anywhere in the options, but maybe I’m just going insane. Regardless, it’s great fun even if it will punish you for slipping up early on!

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