Squeezing a big action game onto iPhone is a gamble in general, yet for a sandbox adventure like Car Jack Streets it's a real roll of the dice. Distilling the top-down formula that made the earliest instalments of Grand Theft Auto popular, this shooting and driving epic goes all in. In the days leading up to its final release, we went hands on with the game.

After racking up a million dollars in gambling debt, Randal continues a streak of bad luck as mob boss Frankie calls in his debt. Starting with an initial down payment of $5,000, Frankie orders you to pony up $50,000 every week until the debt has been paid in full.

Randal's situation isn't all that bad: not only is Frankie not charging late fees and interest, but he gets help from his Uncle Murphy who loans him cash for the first payment. Uncle Murphy also hooks Randal up with questionable contacts that promise quick money for a variety of services rendered.

From stealing cars to robbing banks to killing rival gangsters, the road to Randal's financial recovery is paved with crime. Your primary objective is to deposit $50,000 at Frankie's palatial estate each week. Car Jack Streets plays out in real-time, so a week's time translates to an actual seven day period. It's a clever way of hooking you into the game, encouraging you to regularly come back to make a quick buck.

How you come up with the cash is largely up to you. Uncle Murphy's felonious friends randomly call in with jobs, the locales marked on your GPS.

Tapping the GPS icon on the left opens a list of available destinations; selecting one triggers a red arrow that points the way to your objective. While functional, a mini-map on the action screen or an overall map of the city accessible on the pause menu would be helpful.

You're welcome to walk all over town, but stealing a car gets you from place-to-place much faster. A D-pad on the left side of the screen allows you to walk around, until you come across a vehicle while you can jack by tapping the corresponding action button on the right.

In the driver's seat, the controls switch: the directional pad is replaced by left-right keys and acceleration-deceleration buttons sit on the opposite side of the screen. Additionally, a turbo button above the acceleration pedal enables you to reach top speed.

Adjusting to these unusual controls is going to be a must because the vast majority of odd jobs demand skillful driving.

One early mission has Randal serving as the getaway driver for a robbery at the Bank of Americano (rumour has it they serve up a free cup with every deposit). After setting the location via GPS and stealing a car, we were given a couple of minutes to rush over to the bank.

Once the robbers hopped into the car, completing the job was a matter of zipping to a warehouse near the docks. As you can imagine, making a successful getaway meant evading a throng of police cars, which requires skills behind the wheel.

Another driving mission we tackled had us stealing cars for Kirk's chop shop down by the city's docks. Dropping off pricey cars in pristine condition nets a good chunk of change, whereas battered vehicles lowered your intake.

Cleverly, the game won't allow you to steal cars from the docks and then sell them to Kirk. Instead, you're asked to nab vehicles from anotherneighbourhood to turn a buck.

Other missions involve you in gang rivalries and on-foot shootouts, which we'll explore fully in our review. There's also the prospect of exploration and tracking down hidden packages that can pull you away from jobs.

ar Jack Streets should be releasing within the next week or so on the App Store, at which point we'll have a final review.

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