Racing games are a tricky proposition at the best of times. They demand your full engagement with every bump and curve of the track, or you’ll soon be choking on the opposition’s exhaust fumes.
How much tougher does it get when the track is made of water, and the vehicle is a jetski? The answer is 'very'. Because that flat expanse of tarmac has now become an undulating wave, giving the jostling for pole position has an added level of complexity.
Riptide GP has already been favourably reviewed on the Android platform, praised for its impressive graphics and wide selection of game-modes. The transition to iOS should be pretty straightforward. Let’s find out if the game has sprung any leaks.
In terms of graphics, Riptide GP looks fairly average in its current state. The skyline and the futuristic cityscapes dotted through each stage look fine, but the animation of the individual racers is stiff and robotic.
There’s not enough life to them, most obviously when doing stunts in mid-air, or tumbling off a jetski into the water.
The rendering of the water, by comparison, looks slick and metallic, as though a tanker of mercury had run aground just off-screen and emptied its cargo into the water supply. It's not especially realistic, but helpful for charting a path through the waves in any case.
Developer Vector Unit has submitted an update that will purportedly make the game look twice as good, so if graphics are your thing it might be worth your while waiting for the update to go live before you take the plunge.
The game is controlled by tilting the screen left and right, whereupon the accelerometer interprets your gestures accordingly. Forward motion is automatic, and you tap the screen for braking, speed boosts, and to perform tricks.
We tested the game on an iPad, and the bigger size of the device makes this control scheme less than ideal. It’s responsive enough, but the physical effort required to hold an iPad aloft becomes tiresome after a while, and there isn’t an option in the settings to switch to a different set of controls.
There’s are difficulty levels, based around the engine size of the jetski: 250cc, 500cc, and 750cc. The lowest setting is too easy, and here the game is a bit of a snoozefest. The middle setting ramps up the challenge considerably, and this is where the consequences of having tilt-controls are most keenly felt.
As with the Android version, there are several game-modes to choose from, including Race, Hot Lap, and Championship. More tracks and jetskis are unlocked as you progress, and OpenFeint implementation provides global leaderboards.
Another, less welcome, similarity it shares with the Android version is the lack of multiplayer modes. A racing game without the option to race against friends is only half a game, and the developer should to address this in a future update as a matter of urgency.
Unfortunately, we’re struggling to get excited about Riptide GP. It’s technically proficient, with a neat twist on the traditional racing game, but it’s lacking spark.
More problematically, the control scheme doesn’t translate well to tablet-sized dimensions, so if you've got an iPad you may want to wait for a possible touchscreen control update.
In more respects than one, Riptide GP is a few updates away from greatness.
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