Retro Racing Review

Retro Racing’s title doesn’t leave much to the imagination. If you’re familiar with the kinds of driving games that were prevalent in the 1980s, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect with this new iOS game.

There’s not a whole lot to Retro Racing, but it’s not as barebones as it could be. It certainly isn’t a direct blast-from-the-past kind of experience; the 2D graphics are appropriate to the present and look good on a Retina display. If you take a corner too fast, you’ll leave skid marks on the road, and this is a nice touch that a lazier game wouldn’t have featured.

What you actually do in the game isn’t especially groundbreaking or exhilarating, though. You’ll race against AI cars, trying to place third or better to unlock more of the game’s tracks, which total to be an even dozen. Littered about the road– and sometimes off of it– you will find nitro boosts, as well as power-ups to your speed, acceleration, and tires. Picking these up is necessary, as your vehicle will quickly be outclassed as you progress through the game.

Race like it’s 1986.

You always start in last position, and if you want a car with better starting stats, you need to pay $0.99 to unlock the second half of the cars in the game, which only differ from the default vehicles in color and attributes. They’re all the exact same shape, making the value of the in-app purchase that much more questionable. At least in some other driving or flying apps, there are 3D assets locked behind a paywall. Those take a lot more work to put together; this is just arbitrary and player-unfriendly.

Also unfriendly to the player is the game’s control scheme. Most action games for iOS have you hold your device horizontally, and for good reason. For a single-touch or turn-based game, a portrait orientation can work very well, but Retro Racing could cause all but the most petite of players to cramp up. There are three virtual buttons: one to accelerate and two to turn right or left, and it’s uncomfortable to hold the device as the game requires. Not having the option to play the game in landscape feels like a big mistake, and there’s nothing about Retro Racing that seems like it requires the portrait layout.

One of Retro Racing’s 21st-Century trappings is its Game Center integration. Sadly, it’s not done especially well. The achievements can be as shameless as Tweeting your time or having your friends play the game, but what’s arguably worse is that some of the ones that actually relate to gameplay don’t stack. For example, if you lap two cars, you get the achievement for lapping two, but not the achievement for lapping one. This is achievement design 101, and Retro Racing fails in that regard.

Being tone-deaf and/or distasteful in most of its attempts to be modern, Retro Racing evokes the kind of shallow driving games you could find for the systems of the ’80s, without doing much to be a game that’s compelling to play in 2012.

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