When it comes to 2D, side-scrolling racing games, Excitebike for the Nintendo Entertainment System is usually the first name that comes to mind. The simple, yet engaging, formula works. Or at least it did way back then.
Digital Chocolate, known for its success with simple gaming concepts, ports mobile title Stunt Car Racing 99 Tracks to the iPhone. But the title seems unambitious in its use of iPhone technology, or lack thereof, and definitely shows its mobile roots in its uninspiring presentation.
Stunt Car Racing 99 Tracks puts gamers behind the wheel of one of two cars, either a dune buggy or a monster truck–the main difference being speed versus durability. With an automatic accelerator, it’s not so much driving, but rather guiding the car through a bumpy course littered with obstacles and jumps. Touch buttons control the rotation of the car in the air, wheelie it over obstacles on the ground, fire a boost or put on the brakes when necessary.
The racing is about as simple as it gets. As in Excitebike, navigating the course is more a matter of feeling the rhythms of the bumps and jumps than anything else. By successfully landing jumps or performing various tricks like rotations or wheelies, the car earns nitro boost for extra speed.
Despite the game’s simplicity, the courses can be deceptively challenging. With success being dependent on timing gaps on the course, just going all-out with the speed boost will no doubt land some players in trouble. Truly understanding the layout of a course is the route to success, and multiple playthroughs are necessary on some of the more difficult tracks. Three different levels–Rain Forest, Desert and Ice–are unlocked through a Career mode, with tracks then playable in Quick Ride mode. Pass-and-play multiplayer supports up to four.
But Stunt Car Racing 99 Tracks lacks the same creativity and execution that some other DChoc titles, like Kamikaze Robots, have displayed. The graphics are very pedestrian, and they don’t run particularly well. The soundtrack is truly awful, so we’re glad that the iPod function is enabled… but only at the expense of all game sounds. And outside of the course design, there’s very little else that’s unique or interesting about this game.
The game’s lack of tilt controls is also strange. The navigation boils down to keeping the wheels parallel to the ground with the rotation controls–a task that would be a lot more fun with tilt controls. Tapping a button to rotate a car just seems lazy when you could just tilt the phone instead.
For what it is, Stunt Car Racing 99 Tracks is a decent racing title. The gameplay is challenging enough to provide some mild thrills, even if it does tend to skew on the more repetitive end. We can’t imagine anyone with the patience to play all 99 tracks.
But at $4.99, a game this mediocre just seems absurdly expensive, given that similar titles like Monster Trucks Nitro go for $0.99. Save your money on this one.