Just when we were having a brilliant week here at The Smartphone App Review, with all the games reviewed thus far turning out really good, along comes Ion Racer to spoil the party. If you were perusing the App Store and came across this, you may very well be mistaken for thinking this looks like a very decent stab at WipEout for iPhone, but believe me, this is no WipEout, not by a stretch.
The graphics at first appear to be pretty good, with a futuristic and quality look to the textures, but once it starts moving, the problems start, as the framerate is extremely dodgy, veering from smooth to patchy with alarming regularity. That isn’t the worst thing about this game, however.
Despite the futuristic WipEout-style hovercraft, this isn’t a racing game. It is, in fact just a simple endless runner style game, in 3D with just two different types of coloured boards to either hit or miss. You move your ship left and right, attempting to follow a trail of small pickups, and try to touch the blue boards while avoiding the red boards. The blue boards can give you a boost or increase your shields while the red ones decrease your shields, eventually killing you. There are also some objectives to complete, such as boosting a few times per race.
You can earn money to spend on the admittedly great aspect of customising your craft, and that’s about it. It actually plays like a bonus mode from a full game.
It is like the designers sat down, spent a hell of a long time developing the graphics, craft and game engine, but then, at the last minute, decided not to bother creating any tracks or other vehicles. It is a really strange game, one that feels like the developer gave up when they got to the tricky part of track and AI design.
“We’ve spent a few months creating this, we won’t make much more money by making it a proper racing game, so lets fart it out as an endless runner and be done with it. No need to optimize anything then either.”
That may sound harsh, but given SGN’s horrific history of releasing paid games then updating them to make them freemium, it really wouldn’t surprise me. It also wouldn’t surprise me if this game was turned into a freemium title in a couple of weeks, meaning that anyone who bought it for full price will have to cough up some IAPs to pay for the content they already had.
There are some good points in Ion Racer, as I mentioned, customising your craft is cool, the graphics are nice when they are not moving, the music is half decent and there is full Game Center integration. Then we come to the worst thing about the game- the gameplay. I’m not going to mention the tilt controls as they are truly awful so just stay away, but even selecting the touch controls doesn’t get around the fact that the game controls like a dog. Unresponsive and irritating, dodging between the boards is at its very best; boring, and at it’s worst; terrible. There is a puny ‘roll’ move, but that doesn’t help much.
The framerate doesn’t help, and neither does that fact that your craft doesn’t seem to have much of a turning animation, it just seems to float left and right, hampering the feeling of interaction.
Why the developer couldn’t have spent a bit more time, creating some tracks with opponents, improving the framerate and tweaking the gameplay, is beyond me. I get the feeling that they just couldn’t be bothered, so I would advise anyone thinking about picking this up: don’t bother, or wait for the inevitable freemium ‘upgrade’.