The original Draw Race for iOS devices offered a slightly different concept: a racing game in which you didn't really race. Rather than taking direct control of your car, you drew what you thought was the best racing line around a track and then watched the car follow the lines you had drawn. If you got it right, you would win the race and unlock the next track; if you didn't, you had to try again.
This proved to be surprisingly addictive stuff and, inevitably, a sequel has appeared which takes the same basic gameplay, but gives it a new lick of paint to improve its look and feel.
The most noticeable change comes in the graphics, particularly the track graphics. In the original game, these were quite cartoon-like, brightly coloured and big and bold. The sequel has opted for a more realistic look: colours are more muted, tracks are made up of different shades of grey and the graphics generally are less cartoon like.
Oddly, this doesn't actually work. Yes, the graphics looks a little more mature and more like a "proper" racing game, but this diminishes its appeal. The cartoon-like graphics of the first game suited the context of the game and whilst the new graphics look good, they don't capture that same sense of fun that marked out the original Draw Race.
The new graphics actually impact directly on the gameplay at times too. The more muted colours and darker palette makes it harder to work out where the tracks ends and scenery begins. This is particularly true on icy tracks (where everything is white) and it is deeply frustrating to draw a line on what you think is the track, only to find yourself bumping into a wall and losing crucial seconds. The only saving grace is that the computer opponents often make the same mistake.
Sound is also rather disappointing. There is a cracking in-game tune (although to be honest, this could appear in pretty much any game and doesn't really capture the thrill of racing). Sound effects are very disappointed, restricted to a vague engine noise and a few bumps when cars hit scenery. They don't capture the thrill of racing (even "second hand racing") at all and this means that game is rather lacking in atmosphere.
In keeping with the presentation, the gameplay has also become a lot more serious, and again, this is not always a good thing. In the earlier game, you simply had to finish first on each track to unlock the next set. In Draw Race 2, in order to get the best scores and unlock tracks, you have to win 3 times on each track, against increasing numbers of more difficult opponents. This makes the game feel rather more laboured. The need to complete each track 3 times becomes something of a chore and works against the "pick up and play" nature of the title.
On the plus side, the basic gameplay remains unchanged and is as much fun as ever. As you progress through the tracks, you start to appreciate the skill level involved: it's not just a case of getting the racing line right, you have to judge the speed, too. Take a corner too fast and it will force you wide, losing crucial seconds; try to cut it too much and you risk smashing into the scenery. Similarly as you get better at the game, you start to appreciate how clever and challenging the game really is. Just changing your racing line fractionally can result in cutting crucial half seconds off your time and make the difference between winning and losing. It might not have quite the same level of raw excitement but Draw Race 2 is as much a game of skill as any Gran Turismo style racing game. The difference is this one is challenging your brain cells rather than your reactions.
Thankfully, controls have not really been messed with which is good, since they worked so well. All you need to do is hold your finger to the screen and then trace the line you want to take, remembering that the faster you draw, the faster your car will go along that segment. This means that you have to factor in things like curves and draw around them more slowly; or use straights to pick up some speed. There are a few additional controls (introduced via tutorials), but these are not difficult to pick up or remember.
The game also presents a pretty good long-term challenge. Although having to race the same track three times can be a bit of a drag, there are lots of tracks to unlock so it's a game that will keep you playing for a long time to come. It's possibly not a game that you will want to play in large bursts (since the basic gameplay quickly becomes repetitive), but it's one of those games that's fun to load up every once in a while.
Inevitably, the second instalment takes advantage of in-app purchases, although in fairness this is managed in a reasonable way. If you are seriously struggling with a particular track, you can purchase the Super Car option for 69p. I haven't actually tried this myself, but I assume that it means your car is faster than anyone else's, essentially ensuring that you are all but guaranteed a win. Similarly, if you are impatient, you can pay £1.49 to unlock all tracks. It's perfectly possible to complete the levels without ever using any of the in-app purchases, so I'm prepared to cut the in-app purchases a bit of slack this time.
At the end of the day, Draw Race 2 (inevitably) lacks the same sense of innovation that characterised the first outing and where changes have been made, they are not always for the better. The gameplay feels more artificially dragged out, whilst the changed graphics and weedy sound undermine the sense of fun. Draw Race 2 smacks of a game trying a little too hard to improve on its predecessor.
Draw Race 2 costs £1.99, which is rather ambitious when you consider that the original can be downloaded for 69p. Given that the original game is actually more fun, it's kind of hard to recommend Draw Race 2. Yes, the presentation has improved, but for sheer fun, I'd go for the original Draw Race any time.
© Copyright SWSt 2013