App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Okay, someone has to say it and it might as well be me. Xtreme Wheels looks and plays an awful lot like 2009's Xbox Live Arcade release, Trials HD. An awful lot. I know there are similar titles out there that do similar things, but none that I can think of are quite so... well, similar. I'm not saying this is bad, since Trials HD is an exceptional game and having its equivalent on a portable iOS device is fantastic, but the two are so close they look like they could have been made by the same company. Just saying.
Xtreme Wheels is all about speed, accuracy and, above all, finesse. Getting that faceless rider from one end of a given course to the other is no easy task, but in order to earn the best medals and really land a good spot on the leaderboards a run has to be quick and practically flawless. The "flawless" thing is what will trip up most players as each track is full of gravity-defying loops, perilous bunny hops (trust me, they're very perilous) and all kinds of explosives. Simply face-planting into a low platform will give someone a time penalty, so needless to say it's important to do as little crashing, crushing, scraping and exploding as possible. Yeah, good luck with that.
As expected, Xtreme Wheels is lots of fun. Pulling off these stunts in the first place feels like a monumental task, but being able to go back and do them better, faster and flashier feels particularly rewarding. Even more so when that bronze changes to a gold. It also offers just about every control scheme imaginable, from tilt to digital to analog sliders, so virtually everyone can find a solution that works for them. Personally I stuck with the slider because it's what I'm most comfortable with, but each of the control options felt very responsive. There are no afterthoughts here.
Of course we have to take the good with the bad, and there is some bad. There's always some bad. In Xtreme Wheels' case, it's the typical issue of wanting more coupled with some choppiness during gameplay. Granted, the game already has twenty five levels available (split between five themed areas), so that's really just me being finicky. The big issue that can, and sometimes does, hinder the actual game is the slowdown. It's prevalent throughout most levels and it fluctuates between noticeable but unobtrusive to downright crippling. It's no exaggeration when I say that I've botched more than a few jumps and landings thanks to some severe stutters. Thankfully the checkpoints are well placed, so as long as the goal is simply reaching the finish line it's usually not a big deal. I have every confidence that the issue can be resolved with an update, but until then it's something to be aware of.
Really, aside from the occasional framerate problem (which doesn't derail so much as it impedes) and my whining about wanting more stuff, Xtreme Wheels is a great, solid game. It controls beautifully, has lots of crazy tracks to master and can make any commute fly by. With a little tune-up it could be a real beast.