Developer:TinyUtopia
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Super Sprint and its successors (Super Off Road, Badlands) were some of the best arcade games of their day. I have fond memories of heated racing sessions in the back of Shakey’s Pizza as child. My skills were put to the test because I was only given one quarter by my parents to play. If I finished in last place once, it was back to the table staring at a plate of pizza crust. That kind of trial by fire training whips you into shape pretty quickly. After seeing screens and reading that Formula Racing was being compared to Super Sprint, I was definitely looking forward to giving it a go.

Most racing games have a similar premise. Drive 3 or 4 laps around a track and overcome your opponents to come in first. Although Real Racing has pretty much run away with the crown as king of the iPhone racers, this game doesn’t pretend to be in that class. Formula Racing is more about simple racing fun, much like its arcade game roots. It brings you back to why you play games in the first place, for a good time.

img_0303

The original arcade version of Super Sprint had a built in steering wheel that allowed for great control of your vehicle. The ports of the game to home consoles never felt completely right because of the limits of game pads. Fortunately, modern day tech changes the ballgame a bit with Formula Racing utilizing the accelerometer of the iPhone for controls and does a great job of replicating that old arcade feel. It could be refined a bit sure, but the basics are there and playing the game is fun and it feels “right”. You can adjust the sensitivity of the accelerometer and I’d recommend moving the slider down to about the 1/4th point. Perfecting the controls should be the number one priority of game developers and Tiny Utopia nails it here.

The graphics and sounds are acceptable, but nothing you’ll be writing home about. These types of games have never depended on flashy presentation, and that’s true here as well. The AI of the computer players doesn’t seem to be very advanced either. Their main tactic seems to be locking up with you to slow you down and allow others to pass by. It doesn’t matter too much because once you get a handle on the controls you’ll be leaving them in the dust.

There are a couple technical issues to discuss. When I first started the game I had to reboot the iPhone because of frame rate problems. This helped but didn’t completely get rid of them. For the most part it’s acceptable, just not silky smooth. I am using an iPhone 3g to test the game so owners of the 2G iPod Touch and iPhone 3gs probably won’t notice anything. There are also a couple of major bugs I encountered on the 4th and 8th tracks. After hitting a certain spot in the wall my car fell through the track into a bottomless abyss forcing me to restart the level. I wouldn’t have minded so much but I kept hitting that spot and it got irritating.

img_0303

Formula Racing is a pretty bare bones game. There are no power ups, boosts or tricking out your ride. A lot of the fun of these games is accumulating money to upgrade your vehicle to compete against harder opponents. There are 10 well designed tracks but one level isn’t much harder than the next. Once I got a hang of the controls I finished the game rather quickly and was left wanting more. After you’ve passed all the levels there is nothing to do except compete for better times, although there is no online leader board to entice you.

One feature that would help the longevity of Formula Racing would be multiplayer. That really was what made Super Sprint so fun and it is sorely needed here. The game is just over too soon and being able to race a friend would add so much to the life of the game.

I don’t mean to point out so many problems with Formula Racing because they do have a good game here. The engine is solid and the controls are great, but an update to fix the bugs, and (hopefully) the addition of multiplayer would make a big difference.

I would love to see what Tiny Utopia could do giving the same treatment to Super Off Road. That’s my favorite game of this genre and after playing Formula Racing I know they could pull it off. Just remember it’s the little things that add so much to a game like this. There’s no feeling quite like hitting a nitro boost just before you reach the finish line to pass your opponent. Multiplayer, vehicle upgrades and leader boards aren’t just extras; they can make or break a game.

Formula Racing has the potential to be a great racing game. Unfortunately, it’s all over too quickly and at this stage probably not worth the $1.99 asking price.

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: , , , ,