“Nitro” seems like a fitting name for the latest game to come from Z2Live– it’s not especially imaginative, but fairly solid. The game puts you behind the wheel of your choice of three vehicles that look as though they were fashioned after penny racers, smart cars, or something in-between. It has a style that is slightly cute without being cutesy. Once you get some practice and initial upgrading done, it’s off to the races.
And honestly, if there’s one thing to be said about Nitro, it’s that it features some rather gorgeous racetracks. Combined with the stylistic choices of the cars, a pretty good soundtrack, characters who are fun but not overbearing, and some of the best tilt controls we’ve experienced in an iOS racing game, Nitro is a pretty fun experience at its core. Unfortunately, it’s once you get past that core that things begin to falter a bit.
Navigating the tracks isn’t too hard, but one small slip-up can give your opponent the chance to not only catch up, but overtake you and leave you in the dust with little to no hope of catching up. The solution? Driving better helps, sure, but the game seems to steer you more towards improving your vehicle, which requires materials found on the track or purchased with real currency. It begins to feel less like victory is a matter of skill, and more a matter of who has the better car; a battle of stats, to put it simply.
What would be a plus for the game is its online multiplayer feature, except for the fact that it works terribly. It costs fuel to race in any mode, but online requires two units, and if you’re disconnected– even at the start of the race– you’re not getting those units back. Furthermore, “voting” for the next track seems to be broken, as we saw one track largely agreed upon by most of those racing thrown out for a track we’re not even sure had any votes.
If those issues weren’t enough, then there’s the fact that you have absolutely no idea how well you’re doing. Sure, there’s a display that tells you what place you’re in, but it’s all for naught as you cross the finish line in second place and then witness the display spontaneously drop you to fifth. Five, two, it’s all the same, right?
Nitro is a free-to-play game, and as such, it bears all the little hallmarks of that business model, wherein they pretty much charge you for every little thing, right down to a different coat of paint for your vehicle (some of which are absurdly priced). All this, and an annoying “always online” requirement, too.
Despite these problems, Nitro is still surprisingly fun to play, provided you have a steady connection, don’t bother with online, and don’t mind grinding to be able to take on new challengers. It’s a devious little package when you look at it all together, but once you get into it, it’s easier to feel a little more forgiving.