Even 3 billion-plus purchases into the short life of the App Store, there are those that doubt the ability of the iPod Touch and iPhone to be legitimate gaming devices that can stack up with their traditional counterparts. They point to the unorthodox business model of the app store, its crazy pricing scheme, and top 25 charts filled with crapware and exclaim that it's destined to fail. I would contend that as long as games like Need For Speed Shift are being made, the app store is here to stay.
The few complaints I saw about NFS Shift in the reviews on iTunes were about its $6.99 price point. Really? If you want quality apps, you should be prepared to pay for them. You wouldn't go to Target to buy a Nintendo DS game and then try to haggle with the salesman. In fact, feel fortunate iPhone gamer. Need For Speed Shift at Best Buy will leave your wallet feeling $29 dollars lighter. This discrepancy in pricing is consistent for almost all iPhone games.
[caption id="attachment_25674" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The 1st person viewpoint is the way to go."]
NFS Shift is a perfect example of what iPhone gaming can be; graphically polished, easy to learn, and fun to play for two hours or ten minutes. The race types are just diverse enough to keep you interested for a long period of time. There are 7 different types of races. Circuit, sprint, driver duel, eliminator, time trial, drift, and driver face off. Sure, the rules vary a little bit for each one, but in the end the idea is the same; drive fast.
NFS Shift is polished, but the good folks at EA also decided to throw some glitter and stickers on their shiny creation. It didn't really need the glitter, thanks anyways. Just like its console counterparts, as you progress through more races you earn profile points in two different categories; "precision" and "aggressive". Things like sticking to your racing line, doing an entire lap without going off the track or crashing into opponents, and mastering corners will earn you precision points. Crashing into opponents, drifting, and generally just driving like a four year old will net you aggressive points. Earn more points to level up. The only time the points will help you out is to help you earn stars to unlock new tracks, and when you reach level 20 and you unlock a Maserati. As you progress through levels you will also earn pieces to a personalized badge depending on whether you used a predominantly precise or aggressive tactics, neither of which matter too much.
There are 20 cars and 18 tracks to unlock in Chicago, London, and Tokyo. The variety of cars is pleasing enough for an iPhone game and they all handle differently enough to justify upgrading from one to another. There is minimal customization to the cars, with just a few bodykits, rims, and color changes available, along with performance upgrades to the top speed, acceleration, tires, suspension, and nitrous.
The controls are fairly tight and delightfully simple. The car accelerates by itself, tilt the screen to turn and touch the screen to brake. Once you add nitrous to your car, there is a small red button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen you tap to turn your nitrous on and off. There is also an option for manual shifting, but it's not really my cup of tea. If you do prefer manual shifting, a mere swipe up or down on the right side of the screen will allow you to change gears.
My only real gripe with this game is that it's sometimes a bit too difficult. On some tracks I simply got stuck on certain objectives and couldn't get enough stars to advance to the next track. A minor gripe would be the soundtrack. While the sound effects are pretty nice, the soundtrack is just good enough to keep me from turning it off. To beat this, NFS allows you to create your own soundtrack to race to, which is a welcome addition.
With this game on sale right now for $6.99, I would say that it's definitely worth a go. If you're a racing fan, you'll probably come to know this game as one of your favorites. If you aren't a racing freak but can appreciate the genre, then you too should get some enjoyment out of NFS Shift. It's not my favorite app, but it's definitely one of the most polished in my library, and absolutely takes advantage of the fantastic iDevice hardware.