While the 2D driving game has enjoyed its time in the sun, the 3D contenders are on the ascendancy. Replacing 2D's overhead, top-down view with the option of a chase camera positioned behind your car or looking out from the front bumper (like the view you'd have if you were a stuffed toy tied to the front of a bicycle), handset and games developers are harnessing 3D technology to make mobile racing ever more immersive.
Each viewpoint has its merits and champions, of course. To see what's great about 2D games, look no further than Cars. Of course, there are just as many 2D games that, if you'll excuse the pun, fall flat, the 2D version of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift being one of them. But this high-end version takes the 2D Tokyo Drift concept and adds an extra D, creating a game that boasts, in every sense, much more depth. Following the exact same storyline, plot devices and game structure, it's an amazing turnaround of fortune for the movie license and the game's developers, I-Play.
If you missed our review of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2D) you can catch up here. The gist of the game is that you play as a wannabe racer on the mean (but very clean) streets of Japan's capital. Racing drift-style, where you power-slide around corners in as flamboyant a manner possible, you take on the local petrol-head crews as you aim to become the drift king.
This leads to several different types of race in the story mode, all of which we've covered in the 2D review, so we won't revisit our skidmarks here.
What we will talk about is the 3D visuals and the change that's been made to the game in terms of handling and action.
The look of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (3D) is, in a word, stunning. There's so much detail onscreen, more so than we can remember seeing in any other Java racing game. Each of the four locations is distinctly different and has a unique character, forcing you to adapt your driving style to each one. And that's far more intuitively achievable than it was in the 2D version, which handled like a bar of soap.
Here you feel completely in control of your shiny new rice rocket and, while it's still tail-happy, you're no longer at the mercy of the crash barriers.
It's still not perfect: the collision detection is over-eager, so line up an inch-perfect racing line around a bend and you'll bounce off an invisible wall that's a short distance away from the actual edge of the track, for example. Not only does this mean keeping away from the very edge of the track at all times, it also makes overtaking the surprisingly intelligent AI competition more difficult.
But it's never so hard as to be frustrating, and that's the key: you feel challenged rather than wrongfully punished. When the next car you need to overtake appears on the gloriously beautiful horizon, you'll relish the close racing action ahead.
All of which means that you've got a game here that's as good to play as it looks.
In fact, it's a pocket gaming experience that couldn't be further removed from that of the 2D version of the game, even though it's built on an identical concept. While the customisation options have been reduced from the 2D version, you can still pimp your ride with bits of bodykit, new paint jobs and fancy decals, and the solo mode, with extra race types, is back, too.
Which leaves The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (3D) streets ahead of its flat-pack sibling. It's not a winning argument for all driving games to be 3D (after all, there are relatively few handsets powerful enough to run them) but it does show that, rather than being merely a pretty alternative for people with 3G handsets, it's a fully-realised sub-division of the mobile phone racing genre.
It's also a convincing argument for going out and getting a more powerful phone so that you can enjoy 3D games as well as the best 2D ones. You need never be saddled with a second-rate driving game again.