Kart racers are not renowned for being the most innovative titles. They tend to adhere to a formulaic mixture of creative weaponry, cartoon characters, and crazy power slides.
So, it’s refreshing to see someone put a different spin on a tired genre, shunning tradition and, indeed, gravity. jAggy Race combines karting and platforming elements to produce a well-designed, visually impressive game that is unfortunately impoverished in terms of features.
Rather than going for a spin on a conventional track against other players, in jAggy Race you ride solo around a series of gravity-defying tracks.
Courses are divided into different themed game worlds ranging from Tutorial Hills (probably not a real place) to a very loose recreation of the Pyramids of Egypt.
You have to complete the required number of laps within the allotted time to progress to the next level, and you're awarded a bronze, silver, or gold trophy for your efforts. These trophies aren’t just for show, as winning three gold trophies in one of the game worlds unlocks an additional bonus track.
A virtual button at the bottom-left of the screen moves your car backward, while the button on the opposite side causes you to move forward. Touching these simultaneously applies the brakes.
Each track encourages speed, but you'll have to show some restraint to avoid obstacles, such as lasers and buffers, while ensuring that you stay on the track by maintaining a balance of gravity and velocity.
It can be tempting to dawdle to give yourself a greater chance of staying on the track, but if you go too slowly, the game will punish your heel-dragging by, for example, presenting you with a jump that you can't make unless you're going over a certain speed.
This means that the game is also a test of memory, as multiple attempts will allow you to discover the optimum braking and jumping points.
This constant change in direction and disorientation forms a large part of the challenge, as does the concentration required to execute a perfect lap several times in a row. Mastering a level is tricky, but you get there in the end - though the same can't be said of gold medals, which only the most skilful players will claim.
jAggy Race is a lonely experience, which makes the presence of online leaderboards for every level a welcome addition for those who want to compete against friends.
The quality of the physics-based gameplay is enhanced by pretty 3D graphics and detailed textures, such as the blocks of the pyramids. Each world feels different from the others, and the framerate doesn’t suffer despite the fast pace.
The physics engine accommodates a rapid, testing racer, but its components are not enough to mask a discernible lack of content. Levels are well designed, but are in short supply, and the requirement to gain three gold trophies in each world seems more of a barrier than an incentive.
Having laid the foundations of an innovative little kart racer, it seems a waste that developer SevenOnly hasn't built a more impressive structure around it. What's included in the package is excellent, but extra content can't come soon enough.