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Developer: Digital Tales
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 3GS

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

 
As a keen virtual racing driver, there’s more than a few racing games installed on my iPhone — some involve racing motorcycles, but I’ve found that the best on the platform often seem to be the more arcade-style titles. Those that favour simple mechanics and colourful, cartoon-like art syles, for example. Here, however, we have Ducati Challenge, which looks to offer more of a simulation-based experience to fans of the genre.

My first concern while installing the game was its name. With the Ducati brand being there I was concerned this was going to be another of those rather lacklustre and quickly churned out, ‘brand-based promotional games,’ which would have been a big issue when considering the $3.99 price tag. However, my fears were soon put to rest when I loaded up the game and started to play. If anything it was quite nice to see a bunch of motorcycles from this well-revered company, especially seeing as it means we get plenty of ‘biker-centric’ details on each of those featured.

On to the gameplay, though, which is also very well done and manages to cater yo just about everybody. As with most racing games on iOS, we see on-screen buttons for acceleration and braking, with use of the accelerometer’s tilt-controls being implemented when turning. The bike hanling feels great, although the high sensitivity does take a little adjusting to — and the tilting motions feel much more natural than in car-based racers, simply due to the way these high powered machines require the rider to lean into corners. It feels very natural. There’s also the option to to enable braking assists for those looking for less of a challenge, meaning the player can focus solely on pointing the motorcycle in the right direction.

There’s three game modes in all, Championship, Quick Challenge and Multiplayer. All of which are fairly self-explanitory. Quick challenge permits a single race with a bike and track of the player’s choosing, while multiplayer allows one to compete with up to four opponents over WiFi. The downside, however, is that there’s only local multiplayer available — so experiencing this at its fullest will require four friends to own the game and be connected to the same network, which is a huge shame and an unlikely occurance also. Championship mode is the real meaty part, though, allowing players to take part in a series of set races in an attempt at being crowned champion. It’s also where new tracks and bikes are unlocked for use in quick play, of which there’s a nice amount of content to discover alongside achievements and galleries which allow you to see Ducati’s finest and even save them to the device to be used elsewhere.

There’s one thing that adds something extra to the well-designed gameplay and excellent handling, though, and that’s the visuals. Bikes, riders and surrounding scenery are all presented beautifully. The locations range from desert and mountains to small towns and large cities, all of which look stunning and offer fine details right through to the distant backdrops — something that even console racers can struggle with at times. It’s a shame that that the background music doesn’t live up to graphics, though. In fact, while racing there isn’s any — we do find an option to listen to our iPod libraries, which is always a pleasing feature, but I would’ve liked to have heard some built-tunes that portray the exhiliration of the sport.

With all that said, despite my prejudices about a branded title, this one does pretty much all the right things. I never felt the Ducati name being force-fed to me while playing, and as a whole Ducati Challenge offers up the best simulation-focused motorcycle racer that I’ve played so far on iOS. Any complaints are very minor, although having true online multiplayer would’ve given me more reason to keep playing after finishing the lenghty Championship mode.


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