Thanks to its top-down perspective, two-button controls, and cars that are differentiated more by their hue than their horsepower, a casual observer could easily mistake Pocket Racing 2 for something light-hearted, loose, and throwaway.
Such a casual observer would be completely wrong. It turns out that two buttons (one to steer left and one to steer right) are all you need for precision racing, and Pocket Racing 2’s stripped-down focus makes genre stablemates seem positively bloated by comparison.
Since acceleration is automatic and constant, there’s none of this wussy ‘braking’ to worry about. You’re constantly flinging your car into corners at top speed, fighting to stay in control as the game encourages you to play at the limits of your ability.Tourist
World Tour is the mode that many players will first gravitate towards, and it’s perhaps best considered as a starter rather than the main course.
You select a class of car - ‘hot hatches’ are included in the free download, while the Supercar and Grand Prix classes are unlockable through small in-app purchases - and compete against three AI opponents in a simple tournament across eight tracks.
This tournament serves as an excellent introduction to the game’s handling, and as you get to grips with the four hatchbacks on offer by throwing them around each track you’ll notice a surprising degree of difference in each vehicle’s performance.
So while Pocket Racing 2 is no simulation, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have depth. Giving tinkerers the option to adjust gear shifts, turn sensitivity, and downforce seems generous rather than superfluous, and during the course of the World Tour’s barebones tournament it becomes clear that the simple controls allow for plenty of precision.
And precision is expected of you as a player, since the World Tour mode is a stiff challenge. Overly punishing penalties for cutting corners make the experience frustrating at times, and aggressive AI drivers don’t help matters - a single bump can easily send you to the back of the pack, with no hope of a comeback.Ghost-riding the whip
Draw yourself away from the World Tour and you’ll find that the Time Trial and Cone Challenge modes are much more than box-ticking additions. These leaderboard-enabled game-types are addictive time-sinks, and the Cone Challenge mode in particular offers that compulsive blend of difficulty and quick restarts that’ll have you replaying tracks over and over.
And, for once, leaderboards aren’t just unassailable ego-deflators. Simply tap a name on the charts to download the relevant ghost lap, and you’re provided with either a similarly skilled rival to compete with or an insight into the techniques of top tier players.
It’s a seemingly minor feature that extends the lifespan of the game considerably, and opens the door to a gratifyingly pure kind of multiplayer in which competition with friends is based entirely on lap-times rather than any starting grid scuffles or aggressive manoeuvres.
Because outside of the World Tour mode, when you’re the only corporeal car on the track, lap times and high scores are entirely down to your skill as a player. Fluff a corner and it’s your fault. Ace a lap and you have the satisfaction of knowing that there wasn’t even a bit of luck involved.
But Pocket Racing 2’s finest achievement is undoubtedly its thrilling driving model, which forces you out of your comfort zones and onto the edge of your seat.