Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment is known for making full-fledged console titles like Max Payne and Alan Wake, but it's stepping into the iOS arena with a touch-based remake of its old racing combat game Death Rally, originally released back in 1996. I got to see the game in action at GDC in San Francisco last week, and I liked it a lot. While it does make use of a virtual joystick (something that Graeme Devine had railed at in his panel earlier in the day), this one's done very well, providing both direction and acceleration to your little car as you race around the game's various tracks.
Remedy worked with developer Mountain Sheep (makers of Minigore) on this one, and the polish and experience on the platform shows. The textures are clear and bright, and the gameplay is very solid. There are five cars to start (with possibly more coming later), and each of them handles differently, from a huge van down to a muscle car. The weapons are also very different, and all of them are upgradeable. Spending money earned after every race can be used to improve your car's stats or push your weapons up to the next level. As you race, you also unlock various challenges, like racing against just one opponent or going around a reversed track, that mix up the gameplay.
I particularly liked the little extras -- you can use your own music library on the iPod version of the game's universal build, there's full Game Center integration included, and there are a few nice iOS cameos as well. John Gore from Minigore will be one of the celebrity drivers, as will Duke Nukem and Alan Wake's Barry Wheeler. Angry Birds' Mighty Eagle is even making an appearance; if you happen to have bought that character, you can ask him to "soar in and attack other cars" for you.
There's one more cameo, too. Remedy was pitting all of the journalists who saw Death Rally at GDC up against each other in an asynchronous time trial, and yours truly did quite well, though we're still waiting to see the winner. The person with the shortest time is supposed to get another cameo appearance in the game, so you'll have to look out for that.After release, Remedy is adding those aforementioned vehicles as extra content, and local multiplayer is scheduled to come a little later in the year (which will be the first time Death Rally has seen official multiplayer). The game itself is due out sometime around the end of this month, and price was still being determined.
Lots of traditional game studios have attempted to dive into iOS development, and Remedy seems to be doing it right with an original version, rather than a lazy port, and original content just for us iOS users. Death Rally will certainly be worth checking out when it hits the App Store in a few weeks.