Death Rally is a perfect example of the brilliant value that can be found in the app store. First released in 1996, this visually updated re-release of the game follows 2009’s free-to-download re-release of the original game on windows from the Remedy Games website. I never played the original game, but if it was anything like this version, it was really good. For only 99 cents, you get a high quality racing experience coupled with guns and explosions. What more could you want?
The game uses the same kind of top-down perspective that’s found in GTA: Chinatown Wars, and has similarly stunning graphics. Bullets fizzle through the air and smoke roars from car engines. It’s satisfying stuff. The same can be said for the game audio, which builds tension well during races and – with the except of the seldom-present voice acting – is all well produced. The controls aren’t quite so good. You use a joystick to steer the car around the track, but sometimes it’s not precise enough, and rather than pacing keenly over a bridge, your car will hit the side of it, whimper a little, and be overtaken. Shooting is easier – you just press a large shoot button and bullets will spurt manically from the front of the car. Overall, the controls function well and rarely hinder your progress.
Tracks themselves are good enough. A few of them can become a little confusing, with elements above the track slightly obscuring the track, which can be somewhat irritating. That said, if this decoration wasn’t there, the tracks would feel bare, so its presence is the lesser of two evils really.
In terms of its presentation, the game is clean to look at, with menu systems all very slick. Choosing which events to take part in is confusing, with a row of different events to choose from crammed up against each other on the bottom of the event selection screen and no explanation of what the different symbols and arrows mean. Generally, I just selected a random event from the list, which seemed to work well enough.
Alongside how fun the races can be, the game’s intuitive levelling up system impressed me. During races, you earn money according to where you place, how many cars you’ve destroyed, etc. This money is first put towards repairing your car, then it levels up things like weapons, and finally it goes towards increasing your overall ranking (taking you from ‘rookie’ to ‘small timer’ and higher). The system works well, and makes you want to keep playing.
Overall, Death Rally provides massive amounts of value for its extremely low cost – at least 6 hours or more of high quality playing time. The shortness of the races means that the game’s good to play both in 2 to 3 minute bursts and over longer periods over time. It’s even got an online multiplayer mode, although I’ve not been able to try this out so unfortunately I can’t comment on how good it is. If you’re a fan of top-down racers, or just fancy playing something fun, Death Rally is definitely worth looking at.