App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
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With its colorful, stylized backgrounds and an unconventional, vehicle-free racing mechanic, Speed Blazers feels like it could have been a port of some heretofore unknown leftover from the Sega Dreamcast era; the kind treasured by fans and and lauded by critics, but never having received its due respect from the public at large. After actually playing it, however, those fleeting impressions rapidly evaporate, leaving behind a disappointingly unsatisfactory experience.
Unfortunately, the visuals are pretty much all Speed Blazers has going for it, though even those a bit inconsistent. The backgrounds, as mentioned before, are nicely done, as are the actual in-game 3D models. Character design, on the other hand, feels boringly incongruous, with generic anime-styled avatars (amazon, bunny-girl, cowboy) that make the most paper-thin DeviantArt creations feel engaging and well-realized by comparison. It also doesn’t help that there’s functionally no difference between any of them.
This lack of depth carries over into the actual race mechanics as well. The controls are simple (left/right virtual stick, jump button), but it feels for the most part like player input is an afterthought. This isn’t to say Speed Blazers plays itself, but the player’s sole contribution is pretty much jamming the stick to the right and hitting jump when going off a ramp or near an obstacle. In-air tricks are performed by swiping up, down, left or right to fill a special meter that provides a speed boost/special attack when activated, but these aren't really needed (one almost never sees the other racers to attack and it’s pretty much impossible to not place first). The only real way to come in third (which still doesn't prevent progressing to the next track) is to intentionally throw the race. Occasionally, however, players might fall behind due to getting stuck on obstacle pieces or repeatedly crashing because of the many instances of poor track design.
Remember how exciting it was to play with the track editor in Nintendo's Excitebike back in the day? Remember how awful those early creations were because we threw anything and everything into them without regard to if it broke the flow of the track? That pretty much exemplifies Speed Blazer’s level design philosophy. What makes it worse is that the tracks look like they could be fun to race on... except that they're not. And then there’s that lack of challenge we mentioned. And the boring character design. And...
Look, Speed Blazers is far from the worst thing out there, but unfortunately it’s just not very fun, moment-to-moment. It feels like a rough sketch of an idea that could be far better executed if a different team were working on it. But as it stands now, there’s very little reason to consider playing this one. The only opponents you’ll be racing against are tedium and boredom. And they’re going to win.