Ice Road Truckers, the iPhone game, delivers the exact experience you might expect. Taking license and inspiration from the History Channel show, the game puts you in the driver’s seat of a giant, lumbering 18-wheeler hauling heavy loads over beautiful, ice-covered landscapes.
This is a pretty bizarre concept for a racing game, a genre that normally prides itself on speed, maneuverability, and tight controls. If this were a traditional racing game, we’d say the controls were clunky. But considering the conditions depicted in the game, they feel just about right.
Hurry, this pizza has to get there in under 30 minutes or it’s free!
Which isn’t to say they’re good, mind you. Because you’re driving on ice, you’ll occasionally slide off the road or spin around. But in the game’s favor, the slow acceleration and wide turns do make you feel like you’re piloting a massive piece of equipment.
The game features seven tracks and five big rigs. Beating a level before the countdown reaches zero unlocks the next track. Unfortunately, no track feels too different from any other. Early tracks have fewer turns and wider roads, while later levels offer more serpentine roads and mountainous terrain. The various unlockable trucks all handle slightly differently from one another, but we weren’t too impressed by the variety.
Twice in the game you’ll come upon long stretches of thin ice, where you’re required to stay under a certain speed limit to avoid falling through to a frigid death. We were somewhat dismayed to see a “Too Fast” warning appear onscreen in a timed racing game.
These hulking rigs can be a cruel mistress.
Also faithful to the TV show but strange for the racing genre is the sparseness of your competition. On any given level you might pass two or three other trucks, most of whom will be going the other way. When you finish a level, the game displays a made-up leaderboard populated with other drivers you never see while racing. You’ll find out that John beat you by two seconds, and you’ll wish he’d been visible so you could’ve smashed him.
But that wouldn’t be a good idea because, ridiculously, if you hit another truck or a stationary object, there’s no crumpling of metal. Instead, your truck is bounced backward and spun around, as if you’d run into the world’s largest rubber band. This gives the impression that your truck is weightless, and it seems cartoonishly out of place in a game that feels realistic in so many other aspects.
Most disappointing, however, is the lack of a multiplayer mode. What good is a racing game when your competition is invisible and you can’t play against your friends? Online leaderboards, which would have given the game replay value, are noticeably absent. Once you win first place on a level, there’s no reason to go back. We would have also liked the ability to create player profiles, because it’s no fun typing in your name after every race.
Overall, Ice Road Truckers is merely an adequate racing game. If driving on ice seems like an exciting concept to you, this game will give you a quick fix. Otherwise, steer clear.