Red Out Racer
| Red Out Racer

There's a Jerry Seinfeld stand-up routine that says that there's no more male an idea than taking a car to the moon. As if the astronauts hadn't gone far enough already, they (being typical men) fancied having a drive around to see what was over the next hill.

Red Out Racer is an extension of that philosophy: as if it's not enough to have visited the farthest reaches of the galaxy, humanity thought it might be entertaining to bring racing cars along, too. Well, racing hovercraft-cum-spaceships, anyway – the designers of these craft are obviously fans of the Snow Speeders from The Empire Strikes Back.

So you're strapped into your chosen craft, called a 'pod', assigned a place on the starting grid and then, when the lights go green, you're off for three laps of high-speed, high-contact racing.

Faced with three competitors, you need not rely solely on your speed and driving abilities; various power-ups are scattered around the track to lend a helping hand. These include heat-seeking missiles, shields, speed boosts and an auto-pilot mode that's like turning the cruise control on in your car. You can use all of these to your advantage, and your competitors, bless 'em, do the same. That means that you've got to watch your back as well as the horizon and, given the competition's aggressive nature, you can expect to take a fair few hits.

As you can see from the screenshots, Red Out Racer is fully 3D, and for a Java game it moves impressively smoothly. This is largely due to the lack of detail in the visuals. There's no trackside scenery to talk of, with every race taking place on an elevated track, and the pods themselves are just featureless assemblages of polygons, arranged in different shapes and colours.

Nevertheless, the sense of speed conveyed is impressive and, with a beefy enough handset (we played using a Nokia N70, a high-end 3G phone), you can see quite far down the track to spot other racers in the distance. Lesser handsets suffer from having the horizon shrouded in 'fog' and you can see this in some of the screenshots, so be particularly aware in this respect – it can make the racing far more about reaction times than a smooth, flowing driving style.

It's the driving style of these pods that offers the biggest challenge of the game, handling as they do like rocket-powered hovercraft. There's a real art to going fast in Red Out Racer and it takes a fair amount of practice; turn into a corner too hard and you'll lose all momentum, but turn too softly and you'll career in to the edge of the track, causing damage.

When you do nail it, you'll love the way that you glide from curve to curve and your lap times will plummet accordingly. And, given that there are 16 unique circuits and four modes of play (Quick Race, Tournament, Timed Lap and Survivor), there's plenty of slip-sliding racing action to be had as you strive to climb to the top step of the podium.

And that's the key. If Red Out Racer had purely been a technical exercise in making a 3D racer that looks good on your phone, it would have been easy to deride it as a pocket gaming experience. But the fact that as much effort's been put into making the game fun to play as well, means it's easily in the leading pack of the mobile phone racing field.

It's on a different planet in a galaxy far, far away, mind, but it's there, nevertheless.

Red Out Racer

If you've got the handset for it, this is a race-leader, though petrolheads might miss their wheels