The Holy Grail of time-attack game design – games where it’s you against the clock, battling for high scores – is to reach a state of perfect balance between frustration and reward. When all the elements are balanced, the result is that coveted “just one more try!” response from the gamer. Developer Olivier PARRA has the right idea with the physics-based speed puzzler Racing Tyres Space, although things tend to lean a little too far towards frustration much of the time.
There’s a shadow of Sonic The Hedgehog here, albeit simplified and distilled, with more than a touch of Trials HD high-speed looping physics thrown in, and topped off with a spartan Tron-esque design style. Stage after unlockable stage of intertwining curves, tunnels and ramps need to be navigated, controlling your spinning tyre back and forth with two pedals and a very patient, forgiving mindset. The digital nature of a touch interface is an annoyance here, because you’re obviously limited to an “on/off” control system – you’re either accelerating/braking at full power, or not at all. This makes subtlety something of a challenge.
But subtlety is essential here. Racing Tyres Space has some of the most devious track layouts you’re likely to see, and getting through each of them within the time limit requires serious concentration and a careful touch. Just one moment too long on the throttle and you’ve lost it. Thankfully there is no noticeable load time when restarting a stage, because you should be prepared to hit that restart button hundreds of times. Often it will start to feel unfair, like the physics is out of tune, and occasionally you may feel like throwing your iPhone through a window, but usually when you’re failing a level it’s because you’re doing something wrong.
For a game of this nature, the developer demands a lot from the player. There is effectively no room for error whatsoever – even the smallest hesitation or misstep will cost you. And there’s no first, second and third place finish… if you miss the cut off time, there’s no bronze medal. You restart and restart until you get it right. It’s challenging, make no mistake, but perhaps too much so for the average user. The learning curve is just too steep for most, and it would serve the game well to have the time limits softened for at least the first five or so levels while you’re getting a feel for it.
Gamers with the determination and temperament to fight for those winning times will find an addictive action puzzler here, but don’t expect a flashy production with bells and whistles – the sci fi art direction is clean, fast, and unremarkable. You don’t play a game like this for fancy graphics and big budget presentation, though. It’s about speed, solid physics and a devilish challenge. Ultimately where Racing Tyres Space falters, though, is that it lacks soul; there is a cold, clinical feel to the whole experience, hardly inviting players to come back for more once frustration starts to set in. That aside, for its dollar price tag you are getting a nice chunk of gameplay, as there are a lot of stages to play through, assuming you’re up for the challenge.
Racing Tyres Space Lite gives you a free taste of this unforgiving puzzle racer, but don’t be fooled – the paid version is as ruthless as it is heartless. Only the brave need apply.
Requires iOS 7.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.