Game Reviews

Ionocraft Racing

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| Ionocraft Racing
Ionocraft Racing
| Ionocraft Racing

For many years, science-fiction writers have hypothesised about what it would be like if the internal combustion engine was never invented and instead steam power had been the dominant force of the 20th century.

We shudder to think about how much coal we'd get through if this steam-punk fantasy had come to pass, but those of you who find this alternative future appealing may wish to sample Ionocraft Racing on the iPhone.

It boasts steam-powered vehicles, Victorian-era race tracks, and a whole host of upgrades to unlock and bolt onto your bizarre-looking steel steed.

Tilting optional

Unlike most iPhone racing games, Ionocraft Racing's default controls don't make use of the handset's accelerometer. To turn your ship you use left and right virtual buttons, which are located in the bottom-left corner of the screen.

It's possible to enable a tilt-based control system, but to be honest we found ourselves warming to the old skool button-based configuration. Sadly, this choice has more to do with Ionocraft Racing's performance issues than anything else.

The game really struggles on high-detail tracks, with the frame-rate dropping to unacceptable levels when you pass through tunnels or race by complex pieces of trackside architecture (using a third-generation iPod touch.)

No brakes

This makes controlling your ship incredibly difficult, as your tilts and turns aren't reflected on-screen as quickly as they should be. The lack of a brake compounds this issue, as the only means you have of slowing down your racer are lifting your finger off the throttle or slamming into a wall, which damages your hull and can lead to a fiery death.

It's clear that the game's technical issues have forced the developer to make Ionocraft Racing a time trial affair – there are no other racers on the track, and if there were we dread to think how the game would perform.

It's a shame that this issue exists because there's so much here that's worthwhile. The manner in which you slowly upgrade your ship with race earnings is addictive, with new parts becoming available as you move through the 13 different courses.

Nice little motor

Upgrading requires thought, too. A new turning system will allow you to bank more sharply, but if you fix it to the wrong place on your vehicle it won't operate as well as it should. Finding the right balance is key to getting the most speed from your ship.

Ionocraft Racing's longevity is based around getting gold on each circuit, which is easier said than done. This is quite an engaging challenge, but by the time your ship is swift enough to push for the top times the jerky graphical performance pretty much removes any semblance of enjoyment.

It's disappointing that the developer has pushed this game onto the market in such a state, because it's obvious that it requires more work to reach its full potential. In time, that might prove to be the case, but right now Ionocraft Racing's technical issues mean we can't recommend it.

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Ionocraft Racing

A classic example of pushing the hardware too far, Ionocraft Racing has an entertaining concept at its core but is let down badly by a stuttering frame-rate and a lack of rivals to race against
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.