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Death Rider (iPhone)

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Futuristic racing/fighting game for iPhone/iPad.

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      08.10.2012 13:21
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      A greedy little game where progress is virtually impossible unless you splash the cash

      I used to love the old Roadblasters arcade game and, if you ask me, it's clear that the makers of Death Rider share my fondness for the game. Well, they must be, because they have *ahem* paid loving tribute to it (i.e. ripped it off) in their own game for the iPhone. There's one important exception, though: Roadblasters was brilliant arcade fun; Death Rider is not. For those of you who haven't got a clue what Roadblasters is, it's not a difficult concept to grasp. It's a 3D racing game set in an apocalyptic future (is there any other kind?!). Your objective is simple: race along the road, destroy other cars and drive over fuel, weapons and coins that have been carelessly dropped. Crashing into objects will slow you down (costing valuable time and fuel to get back up to speed) and running out of fuel will end the game. Because of the Roadblasters connection, I desperately wanted to like Death Rider. Sadly, it's all gone a bit wrong in the execution and, in almost every area, Death Rider is a massive let down. Let's start with the graphics which are very disappointing. Although there's some nice scenery, the cars all look rather squashed and ugly, as though they were drawn by a slightly talented 10 year old. Animation is pretty mediocre and the whole game looks rather bland. OK, I accept this is meant to be a blighted post-apocalyptic landscape, but it shows very little imagination. The most serious graphical problem is that there is no illusion of speed and the scenery crawls past at a snail's pace which rather robs the game of one of its key attractions. With no sense of speed, the game becomes really boring and merely gives you more time to ponder the game's other (many) shortcomings. Graphically, this is almost as much of a travesty as the abomination that was the Commodore 64 conversion of Outrun. Surely computers have come a long way since then? Not on the evidence of Death Rider. Sound is initially more promising. A cracking choral tune accompanies the menus and the main game action (think the sort of stuff that was in the original version of The Omen). This is really atmospheric and gets you in the mood for some post-apocalyptic driving. Unfortunately, that proves to be the highlight, as the in-game sound effects are pitiful. When I'm playing a racing game, I want my car engine to have a meaty roar to it. The engine effect in Death Rider is rather sad. It sounds like they've employed the same ten year old who did the graphics to go "brrrrrrrmmm" a lot. Gun sounds are similarly weak and really don't do anything for the game. When it comes to controls, you've got a choice of two options. Well, actually, you've not: you've got a choice of one because the other is so poorly implemented as to be unusable. Let's get the rubbish one out of the way first: a small steering wheel sits in the bottom left hand corner of the screen and is so unresponsive and twitchy that it renders your car virtually uncontrollable. True, with a LOT of practice it gets better (it couldn't get worse), but the whole point about this type of arcade blaster is that you should just be able to pick it up and play it instantly, not have to spend hours mastering the overly sensitive controls. The second option is much better and actually works quite well. This relies on using the phone's accelerometers tilting the phone left or right to control direction. After an initial period of adjustment (you need to learn just how far you need to tilt the phone to effect a move), this quickly becomes second nature and is possibly the one area of the game where Death Rider has got things reasonably right. Using this method, the controls are both responsive and easy to use. Despite these pretty fundamental flaws, Death Rider still manages to be reasonable fun - for a short while at least. Racing along (well, crawling...) and shooting other cars is always an appealing concept and so it proves here. The game is quite tough to start with and you really need to make sure you collect pretty much every fuel token you come across otherwise you will soon find it's game over. But then, Road Blasters was a tough game, too. After a few games, you adapt to the relatively high difficulty level and start to appreciate the challenge it provides. So when you do have a good game and record a reasonably high score, you get a real sense of achievement. Unfortunately, the game's difficulty level soon becomes an issue due to the greed of the game's creators. I have no problems with games that are challenging; where practice is rewarded with increased skills gradual progression. Unfortunately, Death Rider is structured in such a way that practice and natural ability will only get you so far. It's here the inevitable issue of in-app purchases rears its ugly head. As with many racing games, it's essential to buy upgrades to give access to better vehicles, superior weapons or other accessories. In theory, you can do this without parting with any actual cash, by collecting coins dropped on the road. No matter how many you collect, though, it's never going to be enough. The rate at which you collect coins is very slow (about 1,000 coins a game). The CHEAPEST upgrade costs 100,000 coins so if you're not willing to part with any real money, it's going to take a very, very long time before you can think about upgrading your car... and that in turn is going to make the game spirit crushingly difficult. Of course, what the developers hope you will do is cheat and buy more coins via in-app purchases. Costs range from 69p (for 100,000 coins, enough for one single upgrade) to £3.99 for 1,000,000 coins. Going down this route means it's going to get pretty expensive to keep upgrading your vehicle. I don't necessarily have a problem with the option to buy upgrades if that's what you want to do, but it shouldn't impact on the game for those of us who don't. The simple fact is that unless you are willing to buy extra coins, Death Rider is virtually impossible. You will simply end up playing the same level over and over and over again until you have amassed enough coins to buy a single upgrade. And then you'll have to repeat the process until you can afford a new upgrade... and so on. As you can probably imagine, this endless repetition is not fun. To be honest, even if you're ridiculously loaded and don't mind spending a fortune on in-app upgrades, I still couldn't recommend this game. The dire graphics, disappointing sound and complete lack of speed renders this Road Blasters pointless. You're better off playing an emulated version of the original Atari classic on your PC instead. (c) Copyright SWSt 2012.

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