App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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From just about every angle, Rev Heads Rally looks like a clone of Mario Kart. Obviously, there's no Mario, Bowser, or any other Nintendo characters present in the game, but Rev Heads presents cartoon-y racing action, complete with question mark boxes, coins to collect, and an overall design that allows for absurd lead changes at a moment's notice. In fact, this game so closely adheres to the Mario Kart formula that playing it makes you wonder if Nintendo's kart-racers are actually worth playing.
Rubbin' is racin'
For those not acquainted to the kart-racing genre, its a style of racing game that places more emphasis on unique track design, powerups, and obstacles over the act of driving. In the case of Rev Heads Rally, this entails pitting four drivers in races where they can shoot missiles at each other while racing through canyons, medieval kingdoms, tropical areas, and more.
The driving aspect of Rev Heads Rally couldn't be simpler. Your vehicle accelerates all on its own, leaving you in charge of simply steering the vehicle via on screen buttons or tilt controls. Without the need to control the gas pedal, you are free to dedicate most of your attention on timing your boost for just the right time or steering your way into item boxes to get powerups to take out your fellow racers.
For the most part, all of Rev Heads feels like a watered down version of Mario Kart. Besides being on mobile and having free-to-play hooks (including pop-up ads), the game features a limited set of items that stand in for green shells, bananas, etc., and even features the same “rubber band” AI that ensures that all races stay close at all times.
Across the game's impressively long single-player campaign, you'll find that there are also many tracks in Rev Heads that evoke some of the more memorable features of Mario Kart stages as well. None of these really have a sense of character to stand out in the way that something like Wario Stadium or Rainbow Road do, but you can still trace the inspiration pretty clearly.
The art of kart
It's not entirely fair to say that Rev Heads Rally is just a rip-off of Mario Kart, but the parts where the game departs from that formula generally make the experience worse. There's the aforementioned free-to-play model that locks certain cosmetics, cars, and upgrades behind walls that you can grind (or pay) to get through, but--more importantly--Rev Heads Rally is severely lacking in multiplayer options by offering only local online play.
Even with these issues, there are moments in Rev Heads Rally where it feels exactly like a re-skinned Mario Kart, and it's these moments that open up a larger question about kart racers in general. Are they intrinsically fun because they are made for everyone to enjoy, or does the fantasy of driving around as characters from a beloved franchise in an extremely polished world prop up the enjoyment of a racing game that's actually not very well-designed for anyone?
The bottom line
Rev Heads Rally adheres diligently to the Nintendo's astoundingly successful kart racer format, but is an ultimately middling experience. It seems that--without a popular license or a staggering amount of production values and polish--games of this ilk simply aren't that interesting. This is all to say that even if Rev Heads Rally was a premium experience and offered better multiplayer options, it would still suffer from being a pretty generic kart racing experience.