Game Reviews

Ground Effect Pro

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Ground Effect Pro

If Ground Effect Pro has taught me anything, it's that it's just as well I take public transport everywhere.

If it's taught me two things, the second is that gamepad controls don't necessarily improve a game.

Given that the majority of Xperia Play games currently available are touchscreen ports, it's surprising that this problem hasn't come up more often. Adding gamepad controls to Ground Effect Pro has somehow managed to pull the fun out of the game by exposing its limited nature.

Put your finger to the metal

First, a quick summary of the original game. Ground Effect is a high speed racer with floating futuristic vehicles. It's a bit like WipEout, but less hemmed-in, with big expansive tracks in open areas. There are plenty of shortcuts to discover and rock faces to go flying into.

You start each race well behind the seven other racers, and the aim is to defy the odds and speed your way past them to a top three finish, which will open up another of the game's 14 courses. You do this with speed boosts that you pick up by accurately passing through each checkpoint.

Ground Control Pro is quite good-looking, if a little angular. Draw distances are decent, and the number of craft you can drive is impressive (though they have no marked stats, and all seem to handle exactly the same, so the variety is largely superficial).

Touch of class

The problem comes with this version's main selling point: its Xperia Play optimisation. The game was ideal for touchscreens, and pushing it onto the gamepad with its D-pad, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons exposes how simple it is.

X is now brake, Up is now speed burst, and Left and Right steer. That's it – there's no acceleration, as that happens automatically. It all feels a bit dull, in a way that high speed racers really shouldn't.

Push the gamepad back in and experience the game in its original form and it's instantly transformed.

'Brake' and 'speed burst' pedals appear in the bottom-right, and you steer by tilting the handset, causing your ship to twist and turn around corners.

It sounds a small change, but it instantly makes the game come alive - narrow escapes suddenly feel like moments of sublime skill rather than elementary button-pressing.

If you're happy to renounce Xperia Play's key feature to play a better game, then it's worth a look. After all, you can close the gamepad and turn it into a regular Android phone at any time.

But it's a difficult sell when other racing games such as Need for Speed Shift and, of course, WipEout make far better use of the gamepad. If you've gone for an Xperia Play, the chances are you were after something a little deeper from your games, and sadly Ground Effect Pro just isn't it.

Ground Effect Pro

Strapping Xperia Play controls to a game simplified for touchscreens is a difficult fit, and oddly manages to take the excitement out of the game. You could close the gamepad and play it normally, but ultimately there are racing games better suited to this dedicated game phone than Ground Effect Pro
Alan Martin
Alan Martin
Having left the metropolitan paradise of Derby for the barren wasteland of London, Alan now produces flash games by day and reviews Android ones by night. It's safe to say he's really putting that English Literature degree to good use