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App review: Reckless Racing (iPhone)

App review: Reckless Racing (iPhone)
Chris Ziegler
Chris Ziegler|October 24, 2010 5:06 PM
Developed by Swedish firm Pixelbite and released just a few days ago by EA and Polarbit, Reckless Racing is a game we've been following since it was known as "Deliverace" early this year -- and honestly, there was a spell where we'd gone so long without having heard anything about it that we'd kind of assumed the awesome-looking project had been canceled. Fortunately, that wasn't the case -- it's now available on iPhone, iPad, and Android -- so we decided to take it for a quick spin. After all, top-down racers haven't really made much noise since the heady days of R.C. Pro-Am and perennial arcade favorite Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off Road... and after playing Reckless Racing for just a few minutes, we're not sure why that is.

Put simply, these guys have put together a stellar game that immediately puts a smile on your face from the moment you fire it up. The tongue-in-cheek hillbilly theme (complete with bluegrass background music) is a good start, but more importantly, the control and gameplay are simple and immediately engaging with very little ramp-up time. To suit individual tastes, Reckless Racing lets you choose between some five different control styles: Standard (turning buttons on the left, gas and brake on the right), Tank (gas is applied automatically, turning buttons are in either corner), Tilt, and both Half and Whole Wheel (drag the wheel to turn). We found we were quickest and most agile in Tank mode, but your mileage may vary. You'll probably spend most of your time playing the single-player Dirt Rally mode where you compete against five CPU-controlled cars in three levels of difficulty (along with two levels of steering difficulty), but you also have Hot Lap and Delivery modes. Hot Lap is a straightforward solo mode where you're just trying to set the best time, but Delivery is pretty interesting: the idea is to pick up packages around the course and deliver them to various destinations as rapidly as possible. It's pretty entertaining, and the special Delivery course is complex enough to keep you on your toes.

The graphics are pristine -- they seriously look amazing on the iPhone's display -- and it runs smooth as silk without a hiccup to be found, but we did have a few complaints. First off, there's no Game Center support; that's probably partly due to the fact that it's a cross-platform game and development started before Game Center was even announced, but Reckless Racing's format really lends itself to Game Center's multiplayer matchmaking capabilities and achievement tracking (as it stands, the game has no achievements of any kind). Secondly, there's no vehicle damage; if you get into a wreck or you get stuck, you simply respawn on the course (and there's a dedicated button in the upper right to respawn manually if you like). Considering the on-course obstacles and the ever-present danger of coming into contact with the competing cars, damage would be a fun complication. Also, there aren't any power-ups or upgrades -- we kept looking for Super Off Road-style nitro bottles, but no dice.

All that said, Reckless has proven that the top-down format is brilliant on a touchscreen phone's display. We'd love to see more than five rally courses (ten, if you count the unlockable reverse courses) -- but we guess that's a good problem to have, because it just drives home the point that it's already a gas to play. And at $2.99, it's a steal.

Note: The game's been temporarily pulled from the Android Market thanks to download servers that have been stressed beyond their capacity, but Polarbit expects it to be available again soon.