App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Lately it seems like video game dirt bikes have been yanked out of reality and tossed firmly into the realm of “Wait, is that Even Possible??” Not that I’m complaining about games that make a pastime/sport I find incredibly boring into something much more interesting, but it’s a fairly popular concept these days. Rock(s) Rider is looking to stand out from the crowd by offering some fairly unique modes and vehicles for the genre, but it’ll need some fine-tuning before it can leave everyone else in the dust.
Rock(s) Rider initially doesn’t seem all that different from other titles in the physics-based, near-impossible obstacle laden genre. There are ramps and loops aplenty, lots of opportunities to wreck, and levels that are do-able but take lots of skill to clear without wiping out. But then the new stuff starts to pop up. Things like bikes with rails that allow them to slide along certain obstacles and a three-wheeled ATV-thing. They sound like small adjustments, but they can have a significant impact on the way a level plays out. For example, a metal ramp split into three looping forms will see a regular bike simply rolling along the middle track while a bike with rails will cling to the two outer tracks and follow a totally different course.
The visuals are a definite high point. They aren’t necessarily pretty so much as dingy and grimy, but that’s kind of the point and they’re quite convincing. They’re also utilitarian as each obstacle affects the bike in a manner that one would expect in a semi-real world scenario. It’s the new stuff like rails on the wheels, placing ever-changing bets before a "race," and boss races that really make Rock(s) Rider feel like something different than the rest. They put a new spin on what could have been familiar territory, no pun intended.
If not for the controls, Rock(s) Rider would be a formidable force on the App Store. They just aren’t as responsive as they need to be. The default setup feels too stiff, the vertical slider is way too sensitive, the horizontal slider doesn't seem to like to allow for precise midair adjustments, and the tilt controls are tilt controls. It’s a bizarre mix of stiff and super-sensitive that drains a lot of the entertainment out of running through a course. With some fine-tuning or even the option to adjust sensitivity it would be a completely different story.
In the end, Rock(s) Rider isn’t a failure; it just comes up a little short. With a little patience players can learn to work around the controls (for the most part), but a little tweaking would make a much-needed difference.