It's always annoying to discover you've been putting up with something for ages that you didn't have to put up with. It's like when super-size Homer realises that instead of typing 'yes' and 'no' into the computer he can type 'Y' or 'N'. You wish you'd known sooner so you could have saved yourself some time and effort.
And in the case of Rally Master Pro, I wish I'd known before that a mobile driving game could be this good, because I might not have so generously forgiven the copious amounts of slow-down and meagre selection of tracks that you assume are unavoidable when dealing with a mobile phone's memory restrictions and when making a game that's compatible with a range of handsets.
Rally Master Pro skilfully skids past all such pitfalls. It includes options to turn off certain effects such as particles and lens flare so that if your handset is struggling you can give it a helping hand. It also has 27 tracks, all 3D and all stunning to look at, and barely skips a frame when running.
And no, it doesn't have loading times longer than the queue for a nightclub cloakroom once you've decided you want to go home. How Fishlabs has managed it is beyond me, but I'd hazard a guess that it has to involve witchcraft.
Essentially, what the development team has achieved is to cram a 'proper' console game onto a mobile phone. Rally Master Pro has precisely all of the options, play modes and gameplay finesse you'd expect to find in a full price title for, say, a DS.
So, as you pelt around mountain, desert and forest tracks, your car experiences real-time damage for every barrier you nudge into. These tracks can be raced around in a range of weather conditions – including the most realistic lightning I've seen in a mobile game – and races can be watched back in a replay (from a variety of camera angles) once finished.
There are three difficulty modes and four different play modes, too. The Career mode gives you a rally competition to play against other drivers, Time Trial lets you race individual tracks you've unlocked in Career mode, Adrenaline mode challenges you to race tracks without damaging your car and Mini-game makes it possible to play the three mini-games which are built into the Career option (more on that in a minute).
I could go on because there are plenty more features to talk about. Like the soundtrack that you actually won't want to turn off within ten seconds as in most mobile games, and the inclusion of a co-driver who handily informs you of hard rights and long lefts and the like coming up.
But what you'll probably want to know by this point is whether all this spit and polish actually amounts to a decent driving game. The answer to which is a very decisive 'yes'.
In terms of mobile, Rally Master Pro's dev team has been unusually smart with the game's design. For instead of just making a straightforward beat-the-best-time rally game, it's introduced a vehicle damage system that actually affects your car's performance.
So if you career off the track or, worse, smash into a barrier or tree, the percentage of your car's damage sneaks up. The more damaged it gets, the slower you'll go and the less likely it is you'll make each checkpoint quicker than your opponents. So races are split-second-won affairs, with each checkpoint giving you the typical plus or minus time but also a damage meter that's nearly as important to keep on track as your car.
Handling, too, is expertly done. It's simple, with accelerating taken care of automatically and only braking and turning for you to worry about, but the way your car skids and slides still feels very realistic. As if all this wasn't enough – and, to be honest, we'd still be singing its praises if it stopped there – there are the aforementioned three mini-games playable in between races. They determine how much of your car's damage is fixed and, in keeping with the rest of the game, they're all brilliantly playable and more distinctive than most of those found in mobile games dedicated solely to such mini-games.
In short, Rally Master Pro sets a new standard for rally games. It's really a massive achievement for a mobile driving game on a regular – if higher end – handset. Its only downside is it makes the majority of mobile rally games you've played feel like a bit of a waste of time.
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