Do yourself a favour… pop over to the iTunes App Store and have a quick browse through the iOS-based racing games available there. Lots of them, aren’t there? Between the free indie titles, expensive big name franchises, promising upstarts asking just a dollar, and those shiny but sneaky freemium releases which strangle you with pricey progress gates, the App Store has your high-speed needs covered. A game has to be quite impressive to stand out in this crowded arena, and while Formula Force Racing – a plucky, neon-tinged arcade racer from The Pixel Bullies – makes a good effort, it doesn’t have what it takes to earn a place on the podium.
The all-important first impression isn’t bad: the race locales, scattered across the globe, are sleek and cheerful; your entry-level vehicles are beefy caricatures of real-world models; even the electro soundtrack will have your head bobbing as you boost off of the starting line. Get to grips with the flow of the tracks and the “all or nothing” nature of the acceleration/braking mechanism, and there is some high-octane fun to be had. Sadly it’s not long before the experience takes a turn for the worse. You quickly discover that neither the tilt controls nor on-screen controls are particularly effective, track layouts are uninspired and the physics model is inconsistent.
The team behind Formula Force Racing has the credentials to get it right – between them they’ve had a hand in a number of high profile arcade racers over the years. This just makes it more odd to see the rookie mistakes found throughout this release that somehow slipped by unchecked. From a technical level, there’s something terribly wrong with the way your car flips onto its side far too often, without any easily discernible way to correct it. Visually, while there is intriguing architecture to be found, background artefact pop-up is rife in the more open areas. And they somehow missed the fact that if your phone goes into sleep-mode while the game is paused, when you click it back to life the race continues in the background while supposedly paused. That’s a worrying oversight.
The core gameplay will entertain for a while, but there are areas where opportunities have been missed. The game feels like it wants to be an over-the-top future-racer, but it never lives up to its potential – an arcade racer like this needs more things to unlock, new modes, more glamour and an enthralling progress path to aspire to. Power-ups and boosters don’t belong in every racer, but would have been a welcome addition here. The control button’s hit-boxes are also too small, so both braking and steering via the on-screen interface is an exercise in frustration. Unlocking new cars and championships can be tedious too, especially since there is no real indication of what you need to do to unlock them until you’ve already done it. A once-off payment unlocks everything, conveniently eliminating any real motivation to keep playing.
While there are a number of criticisms to be levelled at Formula Force Racing, it’s not all bad news. The banked corners and tunnel-based tracks are purpose-built for flat-out top-speed hooliganism, allowing higher ranked vehicle classes to hurtle along at quite a rate. The rubber-banding mechanic keeps things tense and competitive, as you’re always in with a chance even if you fall behind. And considering how easy it is to flip your car onto its side or its roof, you can be sure you will fall behind.
If Formula Force Racing had shown up a few years ago it may have made quite an impact. But right now, sitting on the race grid alongside a host of vastly superior tyre-shredding iOS games, this release is going to struggle to keep up with the pack.
Formula Force Racing requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.