Bounty Racer for iPad and iPhone is a very promising release. A kart racer, the game refuses to take the same path as many other games of its type on the App Store that simply copy Mario Kart, and instead plays a more bouncy, hilly game that is all about drifting and boosting, with no weapons.
This lack of weapons is the game’s best feature, as far as I am concerned. Too many racers simply chuck them in without any thought or care, but here it allows you to concentrate on the racing, which is probably the very best of its type on the App Store. Knowing the limitations that touch screen and tilt controls place on the deadly control accuracy required by arcade style racing games like this(as an example try playing Mario Kart Wii with and without motion controls), the developer has wisely implemented tracks that are wider and more sweeping than usual, allowing you to feel as if you are in full control, but also appearing to be a little bit more forgiving of mistakes.
The track are bumpy, hilly and bouncy, which makes a nice change from all the flat tracks we usually see, and the cars respond really well to input, and have a fantastic feeling of suspension, with just the right amount of grip. There is a drift button that also doubles as the brake button, which takes a little while to master, but once you get the hang of using it well, along with the refillable boost button, you will be zooming around the tracks.
The tracks remind me a little of Motorstorm, as there are often branching routes to take, as well as plenty of shortcuts. I like this, especially when playing online, although there is a bit of a problem here. You see, with Motorstorm, all roads led to home- you couldn’t really take a wrong turn, but with Bounty Racer you can literally take a wrong turn and find yourself miles behind the pack, with the race essentially lost. This isn’t helped by the fact that the ‘wrong way’ alert doesn’t seem to show up until you have been going the wrong way for quite some time. A faster ‘wrong way’ alert, combined with a few more(visible) road signs would go some way to mitigating this problem. Designing the tracks so this never happened would solve the problem altogether.
There is a massive amount of tracks to work your way through in single player mode with differing race types, as well as an extremely welcome online multiplayer option, over Game Center. You can play either four random players or invite your friends to any track you have unlocked, using any car you have purchased. It is good fun, and the branching routes really shine here, although there were a few glitches in the sessions I played in. I would also have liked the option to play tournaments here instead of just one race at a time.
There is also a great Bounty mode, where you take on challenges from other players, betting coins on whether you think you can complete the challenge, in return for a massive reward if you do manage it. It is a really cool mode, and I like it a lot. It gives the coins, which are used for unlocking items and vehicles, more of a reason for being. You can buy more coins through IAP, but the game is actually pretty generous with what you are awarded in the single player mode.
There are 40 cars to unlock and seemingly hundreds of items to customise your driver with hats, faces and more. It is a nice way to make your car and driver combination your own for racing online.
Game Center leaderboards and achievements are included, as well as the ability to share your replays with YouTube and Game Center friends, and a screen full of stats to peruse.
Overall, this game is packed with modes and options, something that I always love, but more importantly the game itself plays really well, with its own distinctive feel. There are a couple of issues that I have mentioned, which are hopefully easily fixed, as this is otherwise an excellent arcade racer that will provide hours of entertainment, and crucially, actually feels like it was designed with iPad in mind, rather than being crammed in as an afterthought. Highly recommended.
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