Developer: 30-06 Studios
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.02
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Puzzle games and cars don’t exactly seem like the most logical combination on the planet. However, anyone who has ever played the classic quasi-board game “Parking Lot,” knows that that not only can the blend work, but also that it can actually be quite amusing. This is why it should come as no surprise 30-06 Studios would want to take advantage of this mix with their new title, Racer 8. Will it have players revving their engines or leave them running on fumes?

IMG_0399Equal parts asset management, time trial and puzzle game, Racer 8 plays on several different mechanics to keep players’ heads constantly spinning. The core goal consists of navigating the car, which is constantly in motion, through a series of checkpoints and ultimately across the finish line. This is actually completed by revolving the square tiles in the map grid in order to form a track for the vehicle to follow. Throughout the process there are other concerns such as gas scarcity and target times, which both play secondary roles in determining how well the player performed on any given stage.

As simple as the crux of Racer 8 sounds in concept, it is certainly far more difficult in execution. Once the “race” itself gets going, the computer begins to swap out tiles on the map on the fly, essentially nullifying any planning that could be done more than a couple of seconds in advance. Additionally, if there is ever a fork in the road it is essential to have an exit path for both potential directions, because whoever is driving the car seems to find obscene amounts of glee in driving in the opposite direction of where would be the most logical. Though these sound like complaints, they are actually interesting wildcards that keep things fresh and exciting.

IMG_0396Using currency earned though completing races on a variety of different courses, under many different weather conditions, players can chose to upgrade their cars, which will enhance all different aspects of the vehicle’s performance. There are also several power-ups that can help the car drive itself or give a sneak peak of the best approach for a course. And as always, if there isn’t enough in-game funny money on hand, there is an option to spend real world greenbacks for a little help.

When it comes to delivering a genuinely challenging puzzle experience that makes the player feel smart when completing a stage, Racer 8 takes the checkered flag. Simple mechanics that have a surprising amount of depth help to keep the action entertaining course after course. Take this free title out for a test drive; it rides like a dream.

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