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Several years ago I was an avid follower of the Ansari X Prize. Since SpaceShipOne took the trophy in that competition, I'd honestly lost track of the whole thing. Then Rocket Racing League showed up, a game promoting a proposed airborne high-speed plane race from the same folks who backed the X Prize. The League itself hasn't gotten off of the ground yet, but their new app attempts to offer a good-looking window into this possible future phenomenon by way of a standard arcade racer game.
To begin with, I must point out that this app is, first and foremost, a marketing message for the Rocket Racing League. I won't call it an advertisement, since there's no real product to be sold yet. But the game opens with a minute-long promotional video and it prominently features a section to follow news and events in the real-world League. It's an app designed to deliver more than just a game.
As marketing tie-ins go, it's far from the worst I've ever played. The game is a pretty standard arcade racer, akin to a dozen similar games of comparable quality and difficulty in the App Store. You control a rocket racer with either the accelerometer or a virtual joystick, wending your way through marked courses against other rocket racers, striving for victory.
The action is fast, the AI opponents tough, and the courses sufficiently challenging.
Also, this game looks great. Marketing tie-ins are oftentimes exercises in lowest common denominator game design, but Rocket Racing League clearly put some effort into their graphics. The landscape details are great, right down to the sleek lens flares that bounce off your racer when you fly towards the sun. They wanted this game to look like something that could actually happen.
Unfortunately, the racing itself is not terribly realistic. For example, when you impact a canyon wall or another racer, you don't suffer damage or explode; you merely bounce and lose a little momentum. Nothing in the game, in fact, will crash your rocket racer. There's also the collectible stars and rubies you can chase down for points, an element that feels more Mario Kart than serious racer.
If you're looking to add another arcade racking title to your iPhone or iPod touch, you could do worse than Rocket Racing League. While it's neither the most realistic nor the most engaging title available, it's good enough to satisfy racing fans and those with an interest in this new racing venture.