Developer: Red Bull
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Drinking Red Bull may give folks wings, but there are no feathery landings in Red Bull Racers. This slot car racing game features plenty of high-speed shenanigans and subsequent wrecks, both highly attractive features for any title that puts players behind the wheel of fast things. However, some of the game’s free-to-play elements scrape the soul like flesh hitting pavement at top speed.

redbullracers_01Red Bull Racers offers over 100 races across three classes: Formula, Off-Road, and Street. There are several racing modes, including Endurance (race against others), Elimination (the racer who’s last at the completion of a lap is booted from the race) and Rivals (race against a single foe). Friends can also get together and race against one another in a special Friends Race mode.

Surviving a race isn’t merely a matter of putting the pedal to the metal, though. Players also need to know exactly when to take the pedal off the metal. The tracks are filled with tight twists and turns, and taking a corner too quickly almost always sends the racer careening off the pavement (sometimes with impressive distance). Taking one’s thumb off the accelerator icon typically slows the car down enough to take turns without wiping out, but it’s vital to balance handling with speed. It takes some time to really get a feel for how to control the vehicles in Red Bull Racers, but once it’s done, the brisk races and furious lane-changes become fun.

redbullracers_02But regardless of how well the player manages to adapt to Red Bull Racers‘ controls, they can still expect a lot of very close races. Even the beginner courses are rough; rival racers get huge boosts from the word “GO,” and they don’t seem to wipe out very often, even on courses that are riddled with crazy turns. There comes a point where it’s hard not to wonder if the game is making subtle gestures to its marketplace. Players can upgrade their carts and buy power-ups with gold, which is winnable in races, but said upgrades and items are pretty expensive. Some are also only purchasable with the game’s premium currency (gems), including the “rammbock” power-up that rams rival racers off the road. Hey, if they’re not going to spin out on their own, may as well make ‘em spin out. For a price.

And even if Red Bull Racers‘ panhandling for in-app purchases can be overlooked, few players will be thrilled with the energy system, which depletes with every race. The meter refills over time, but really, who wants to slow down when they’re playing a racing game?

Red Bull Racers is worth taking for a spin, but the stiff challenge and free-to-play elements keep it out of the running for first place.

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