The creators of LilRacerz might not know much about grammar or spelling, but by 'eck, they know how to make an addictive racing game!
For those of you familiar with the old Amiga game Super Sprint, this is a spiritual remake. It's an overhead racer which sees you racing on a series of short, twisty tracks, against rival cars. The aim is to finish in the top three so you can unlock the next track.
LilRacerz really is a stunning little game and it's hard to believe it only costs £1.19. For that ludicrous price you will get hours of entertainment, thanks to plenty of unlockable tracks and cars. These give you a genuine sense of achievement and progression and help keep the game fresh and exciting.
Graphically the game looks great. Although they might be small, they are perfectly formed and ideally suited to this type of game. The top down view allows you to see enough of the road ahead to respond to obstacles, without making it too easy. The individual vehicles are well defined and have a lot of character, so it's easy to distinguish your car from those of your competitors. There's a pleasing retro look and feel to the game which will be instantly familiar (and welcome) to Super Sprint fans, but fun for newcomers too.
This is a game that also has a sense of humour. If you veer off the track towards a group of spectators, you can watch them running away in panic. If they're not fast enough, they get squished! It's little things like this that show how much love and attention to detail has been lavished on this title.
Sound-wise, the game is OK; although not in the same league as the graphics. The main menu theme tune is slightly annoying, but liveable; other in-game tunes are at worst inoffensive and at best quite good. There is some neat speech which counts down to the start of each race, but elsewhere the sound is a little underdeveloped. Car engines aren't as loud as you'd expect, and bashing into other car at speed produces a rather weedy "clunk" rather than the sound of screaming, grating metal. Still, it does add to the overall atmosphere, and despite some weaknesses, I still prefer to play this game with the sound on.
It's in the game play where LilRacerz really shines, though. The difficulty curve is perfect. Early levels get you used to the controls before slowly (almost imperceptibly) increasing the challenge. This is not one of those annoying titles that suddenly ramps up the difficulty without warning. This perfectly balanced game plays makes it incredibly addictive and gives you a real sense of satisfaction every time you progress to the next level.
The Artificial Intelligence of the computer-controlled cars is also pitched perfectly. On early tracks, they are pretty passive and fairly easy to overtake. As you get better, so do your opponents, becoming much more aggressive, blocking you, or trying to drive you off the road!
The tracks are very well designed and there is plenty of variety, both in terms of layout and setting. Early tracks have fairly mild bends that are easy to negotiate; later in the game, they are far more intricate and fiendish, offering a bigger challenge. Later tracks will really test your driving skills, combining tight bends with long straights, meaning you really need to know when to accelerate and when to hit the brakes if you want to stand any chance of a top 3 finish.
There is a slightly frustrating element in that you do need to learn the layout of each new track you come to, and inevitably, it usually takes a couple of tries before you master them. Later tracks can also be a little unforgiving and if you crash just once in just the wrong place, you can pretty much kiss goodbye to your chances of a top three finish; in a tight race you can easily go from first to last in the blink of an eye.
It's also mildly frustrating that you can't progress to the next track until you've got a podium finish on the current one. Still, thanks to the fun, addictive game play, you'll be willing to overlook this most of the time, and it just makes you even more determined to do better on your next go.
Like so much else on this game, the controls have been perfectly implemented. The bottom right of the screen contains two pedals - the accelerator and the brake. Turbo canisters can be picked up in game to give you an extra burst of speed, and this is activated by sliding your finger above the accelerator, making it really simple to inject that extra bit of speed at crucial times.
Steering is done by two arrows in the bottom left hand corner. Possibly they are placed slightly too far apart, to make small quick adjustments to your road position, but you quickly adapt to this. .
For the most part, the controls are extremely precise and responsive. On your first few goes, you might find them a little twitchy and find it difficult to keep your car travelling in a straight line when driving at speed. Yet, they are easy to master and, within a few goes, you will be power sliding round corners, shaving vital seconds off lap times and winning races. It's hard to imagine how they could have been improved, and they make the game a dream to play.
As we approach the finish line, LilRacerz is clearly heading for the maximum five stars, although it nearly suffered a blowout on the final lap. The reason? A recent, stupid update to the software erased all your saved game data - every track you had raced, every achievement or car you had unlocked... all gone. OK, you were warned this would happen, but I can't believe that they could do something so stupid. When this update happened, I was pretty much at the end of the game - now I start gain from scratch. Just for once, though, I'm prepared to overlook that stupidity. The game is so good that replaying it all will probably be a pleasure, rather than a chore.
Quite simply, LilRacerz is probably the best iPhone game I've come across. A stunningly professional game in every sense, it offers that rare combination of great graphics, good sound, tight controls and incredibly addictive, well-balanced game play. You will never spend a wider £1.19
© Copyright SWSt 2010