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Game reviews: SlotZ Racer, Racer, Phaze - iPhone / iPod Touch
Ever since I was old enough to hold a game controller I’ve loved to play car racing games.
I’ve played many of them, good and bad, on Spectrum, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, PC and PSP, and now I’m finding racing games aplenty to play on my iPod Touch.
My iPod may be small but racing games for it come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
I’ve already reviewed two of the best in Real Racing and DrawRace, but what about the rest? Which of them deserves a place on the starting grid and which should be retired to the garage then sold for scrap?
Here I cast my eye over three more of them, each very different:
I loved playing Scalextric as a kid. It may have just been small electric-powered cars on a plastic track but to me it was real motor racing.
The fact I can now relive this magical slot car racing experience on my iPod pleases me no end.
What makes it even more special is that I can now carry a bottomless box of track and equipment around with me in my pocket. No more 20 minutes of assembly before playing, no more fiddling around with pesky bits of track that won’t snap together.
And in the portable game maintenance isn’t a worry either, so no more messing around with those little brush things under the cars.
SlotZ Racer, which is basically Scalextric under a different name, is a brilliant game.
Not only can you burn some virtual rubber in fast-paced races against friends or computer opponents, but you can also design your own tracks.
In fact, the design element of SlotZ is almost as good as the racing itself. You have unlimited supplies of track and scenery with which to create your ultimate circuits.
The game comes with a range of excellent tracks so you can go straight to the action, racing up to three opponents in a range of cars in time trials, endurance events, quick races and championship challenges.
Staying true to its slot car racing roots, the game’s controls are very simple.
The corner of the touch screen acts as the throttle. Press to make your car go, release to slow down.
The physics are great too. The cars zip around as if they are on a real slot car circuit. Take a corner too quickly and your car will fly off the track. The same driving skills that apply in slot racing apply here too.
As well as being a nostalgia trip, Freeverse's SlotZ Racer is a superb game in its own right.
Verdict: 9 out of 10
Like SlotZ Racer above, this game, simply called Racer, also has a distinctly retro feel to it.
It reminds me a lot of an old-school coin-op arcade machine – the kind you’d stick 10p into and then see how far you could get, driving for bragging rights and the top score. The gameplay brings back memories of Pole Position with a bit of Outrun thrown in.
The concept of Racer is really simple, but then the simplest ideas are often the best.
Despite its name, it’s not really a racing game – more of a dodging game, but it still involves cars going at very high speeds. In Racer it’s you versus the traffic. Your one and only aim is to get as far as possible without crashing into the fast-moving and unpredictable vehicles on the road.
You control a sportscar, which you steer by touching it and moving it left or right. Moving the car up or down on the screen controls speed.
The road is like the M25 on a Friday evening, and getting around the traffic at high speed to score points requires some daring, dangerous and often lucky driving manoeuvres.
Touch another car and you lose a life, though lives can be regained the further you progress.
Having lightning fast reflexes is the key skill to surviving this game.
I really like the presentation in Racer. Everything from the menus to the cute graphics is really smooth and stylish. It’s like a layer of luxury has been laid over what is a very basic game of fast reactions.
It’s going to need a bit more variety added such as different types of road, new obstacles or extra objectives (maybe a chase mode) to improve its long-term appeal but as it stands Tatem Games' Racer is great fun as a pick-up-and-play time killer.
Verdict: 8 out of 10
The best way I can think of to describe Phaze is that it’s like a pocket-sized version of WipEout.
This is a fast-paced futuristic / sci-fi driving game.
This title is published by Handmark Games who are building up an impressive portfolio of games in the App Store. It’s made by Pazzazz who already have pedigree in iPhone/iPod racing games thanks to GTS World Racing.
In Phaze you race around in hi-tech, high-velocity craft. There are three to choose from at the start, with seven more unlockable.
There are four difficulty levels and 16 space-age tracks. There are single races and championships to compete in.
Control of your craft is via the tilt controls. With the exception of Real Racing, this method has not worked particularly well in other driving games I’ve played but in Phaze it feels more natural – maybe because it’s a space ship you’re driving rather than a car.
Anyway, it’s tilt left or right to steer and tilt forward or backward to accelerate and brake. Sensitivity is good and it’s pretty easy to control your craft.
As you race around the tracks there are six weapons and defensive power-ups to pick up such as rockets and shields. These are activated by touching a button on the screen.
The graphics in the game are very good. The craft are well designed, the tracks undulate and twist nicely, and the backgrounds are lush and vivid.
Everything in the game runs very smoothly and the overall presentation is slick.
Space racers on such a small screen as the iPhone/iPod will always lose some of their impact compared to being on a big arcade screen or console.
Therefore Phaze lacks some of that oomph factor, that feeling of break-neck speed, which a game simulating driving space craft at 400mph needs to create.
Though it lacks a little bit of excitement, Phaze is still an entertaining arcade-style racing game. In terms of WipEout-like games on the iPhone/iPod it’s currently a couple of warp factors ahead of the competition.
Verdict: 7 out of 10