App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Generally speaking, free-to-play racing games are bad. They occupy a particularly dark corner of the monetized game space that feels extra icky, because racing games--at their core--demand a level of fairness that developers tend to exploit. So imagine my surprise when KartRider Rush+ came out and it seemed like not only a competent and well designed mobile kart racer, but also the best kart racer I've played on iOS. As I kept playing, I was waiting for my enjoyment to evaporate as I hit a paywall of some kind, but I didn't. After 40 hours with KartRider Rush+, I can still say it's a fantastic racing game.
KartRider Rush+'s racing is finely tuned for mobile play. Your kart accelerates automatically, while you manage turning your kart, controlling your drifts, hitting turbo, and using other items using virtual buttons. It doesn't feel overly dumbed down or "on rails" like other free-to-play racers, and it isn't so complicated that you feel the need for a controller.
The game offers a ton of modes, including Mario Kart-style races where players can pick up and use items against each other, or more straightforward speed races. KartRider Rush+ also has a robust single-player story mode, time trials, skills tests, and more. No matter which mode you are playing, though, you do need a steady internet or data connection to play.
Much like other free-to-play games, KartRider Rush+ rewards players with all kinds of small currencies and items for playing the game. What's weirdly unique here though is that there are a dizzying amount of these micro prizes, but you basically don't have to pay attention to them if you don't want to. You don't need to earn house coins, or decoders, or anything else that KartRider Rush+ throws at you if you just want to enjoy the racing it offers.
You can largely ignore all of KartRider Rush+'s monetization because it is still a skill-based game. You still have to pilot your kart with precision, and you blow past players stacked with legendary items and gear if you just drive better than they do. This has held true over the hours I've put into the game, even in the ranked mode. KartRider Rush+ is actually a balanced game, and you don't need to put any thought or energy into its various storefronts to keep it that way.
I'm glad that you can safely bypass pretty much all of KartRider Rush+'s monetization, but it can still be somewhat annoying. The game clearly goes out of its way to try and make you care about wanting to unlock new things and tries to tempt you with "best offer" deal pop-ups. Also, there's so much currency-based stuff constantly on display that sometimes it can be hard to engage with the parts of it that you are interested in.
In the grand scheme of things though, this seems like a relatively small complaint considering the gameplay (that is, the actual racing) in KartRider Rush+ is both exceedingly competent and surprisingly fair. It's a compromise I'm willing to make to have a quality kart racer available on my iOS devices.
The bottom line
KartRider Rush+ is very much the exception to the rule that all free-to-play racers suck. It stands high above any and all other kart racers on mobile (even paid ones), and it does so by preserving the necessity--and honoring the practice--of skillful play.