App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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My initial thoughts upon looking at screen shots for Ionocraft Racing: "This looks kind of bland."
My initial thoughts upon actually playing Ionocraft Racing: "Woah."
Ionocraft Racing is, obviously, a racing game. A racing game set in a steampunk world with no story to gum up the works and no overly complicated rules to learn. It's just the driver, their steam-powered ionocraft and thirteen tracks to master. It's simple to jump right in and start earning cash for races by pressing the Quick button, but the real meat is in the Career mode which is pretty much the same thing only it allows track selection and ionocraft customization.
I'm admittedly not a huge racing fan, but I've played around with enough of the store's offerings to know that the controls can easily kill a game's chances. PAN Vision knows this as well, and has included three separate options (digital, tilt and analog) to cater to virtually any player's style. Personally I prefer the analog slider as the tilt controls felt too sensitive and the digital ones involved too much light tapping.
Speaking of configurations (segue!), they can also have a huge influence on a player's chances for success. As tracks are completed and medals are earned, new parts become available for purchase using money earned from racing. However, it's not as simple as buying a few new bits and pressing Equip. Each component has to be placed carefully (via sliding) as placement can and will drastically affect an ionocraft's performance. Putting all those turning gizmos in the back might look cool, but it might also make the thing turn like a bus with four flats. And a broken axle. In sand.
As fun and addicting as it might be to constantly strive for a better time (getting my first gold medal was surprisingly elating), it's unfortunate that the tracks are completely devoid of any other vehicles. No other crafts to race against, no rivals to shove into a wall and not even player ghosts to compete with. It's just the one ionocraft and the race timer. But even with no other racers present I've noticed some significant slowdown and choppiness, mostly on the large tracks. Granted, these things are moving in excess of a couple hundred miles per hour (virtually), but the stuttering can sometimes lead to grinding against a wall or flat-out crashing which can drastically affect one's earnings.
I'm hoping that an update or two will take care of the slowdown, and I'll always dream of at least being able to race against ghosts, but even if Ionocraft Racing never goes beyond version 1.0 it's still a fantastically fun time. Chasing down medals will keep players busy for a while, but I imagine the constant competition for each track's World Record will keep them occupied for even longer. Then again, maybe I'm just a sucker for the little details like the distribution of parts affecting the ionocraft's handling or the way little jets of steam shoot out of the turning doohickeys.