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May 22, 2011

iPad – Death Rally (2011) Review

by Master Pillow

With Death Rally Remedy Entertainment succeeds in crafting an incredibly intuitive and enjoyable automobile destruction romp that has both depth and longevity.  While the controls take a while to master they are more or less standard fair in what you find on Apple iOS devices.  However, the game has a great addictive quality to it that compels gamers to keep playing in order to unlock all the different cars and weaponry upgrades.

As you might expect with a name like Death Rally, this is a top down view automobile racing game with the added dimension of lethal weapons that can be equipped including gatling guns, sniper rifles or mines.  In addition some items like bumpers can add needed secondary offensive capabilities to increase your chance of survival. There is a shell of a story featuring a bunch of cops who capture you who then decide that you are the perfect mole to get into the underground racing scene in order to flesh out a certain criminal.  Okay, it sounds like the first Fast and the Furious film but once the opening narrative plays out the rest of the game is balls-to-the-wall pure racing and shooting.

Controls are simple enough with the left virtual thumbstick controlling direction and the right virtual button which shoots whatever weaponry you currently have equipped.  This weapon has finite ammo which can be replenished by picking up ammo powerups scattered over the track or through random drops when you destroy opponents.  Don’t fret though since your car will still automatically fire bullets when the main weapon runs out but don’t expect it to do much damage.  Once again I find myself recommending serious gamers pick up the Fringe physical joystick that suction cups onto the iPad screen as it adds tactile feedback and is infinitely easier to control.  During a particularly hectic race it is always a bummer if your left thumb falls off the virtual pad causing your car’s destruction.

Death Rally has a decent upgrade system whereby the player earns money by completing certain objectives like finishing first, destroying cars or beating the leader/boss which is easily symbolized by the car with the character portrait next to it.  These boss cars are generally much tougher to take down as they seem to have not only more armor but also better AI.  Don’t expect to beat them when you begin the game as your car is underpowered and needs to be upgraded.  Money is also used to fix your automobile and to improve certain specs like armour, speed or handling.

The other upgrade avenue pertains to special icons that are littered throughout all the tracks.  Picking up these icons goes towards opening up new cars and weapons.  For the most part the system seems a breeze although there is certainly much grinding that can be done to maximize all the different parts.  Whenever you get a new car it will unfortunately come with lowered stats as well thus the grinding process has to start all over again with the exception of weapons which retain their upgrade levels.  However, this is basically a necessity since newer cars have higher maximum stat potential in all categories.

The game works well by presenting a good risk-reward system since astute players will realize that paying massive car repair bills will slow down progress especially if you wreck your vehicle.  Therefore, sometimes it is better to hang back and merely blow up cars in front of you.  This way you might not get a good bonus for not placing higher in the rankings but it can be made up by all the destruction you’ve caused.  If a player decides that they need to come first or at least stay close to the boss in order to destroy him/her the game gets much more tactical as all the cars behind you will undoubtedly fire everything they have in order to take you out.  If your car is about to explode it’s infinitely a better choice to disengage and fall back in the pack to gain some needed breathing room and hope to pick up a health power-up.

Remedy has done an exemplary job on graphics and presentation with each level chock-full of intricate designs and solid textures.  While there are only five stages the game does do a good job in disguising them by giving the option to race in reverse or mixed modes.  However, players will definitely recognize them quickly although this can be a positive since track memorization certainly helps knowing where turns and obstacles are located.  Additionally, the framerate remains rock solid no matter how much carnage is going on and the game does have cool features such as destroyed cars remaining on the track as charred wreckages that present an obstacle to avoid.  Other graphical flourishes like exploding oil drums, the different weapon effects and environmental flourishes such as moving trains are of the same high calibre.

The game does ship with a kind of in-app-purchase system in place whereby players who decide they don’t want to grind so much can buy upgrades that boost the money earned after each race.  The first one costs $0.99 CAD to increase money earned by 150% but the next purchase to boost it to 300% costs a big $4.99.  Still, players are not forced to buy anything beyond the game although it is certainly a bit disconcerting for old-school gamers to see all the “cheats” that in-app-purchase games can provide.

Death Rally also caters to all players of different technical skills as those who want a more casual approach can merely choose to keep racing on easy or beginner tracks whereas veterans can jump to the higher difficulty settings.  There are two meters that show game progression as a percentage as well as the player’s current fame level.  This is a nice visual touch that can quickly give players an idea how far into the game they are although the fame level does not seem to do very much except unlock achievements.  The game ships with Game Center compatibility and there are a huge amount of included achievements of varying difficulty which will extend replayability especially for those who wish to obtain all of them.

At its current price of $0.99 CAD, Death Rally is a real bargain with enough visual flair and content to satisfy any gamer.  About the only thing missing would be on-line multiplayer options and perhaps more cars and tracks.  Regardless, Remedy has crafted a very fun game that comes highly recommended.

***1/2 out of ****

Reviewed On: iPad 2
Date: May 12, 2011
Reviewed Version: 1.3
Size:  78.2 MB
Developer: Remedy Entertainment

© 2011 The Galactic Pillow

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