V-Rally 3D
| V-Rally 3D

Inside every man, there's a lunatic trying to get out. The lunatic wonders if he can shave his tongue, drink water upside down, feed a block of cheese into a juice maker or where he can build a bonfire so he can see if batteries really do explode.

While most men are able to keep this lunatic safely buried, others have trouble. And these men regularly become rally drivers, if V-Rally 3D is anything to go by. Tearing down a narrow country lane, in the snow, in a turbo-charged sports car, purely in an effort to go beat the clock, seems to fall pretty squarely under the lunatic umbrella.

To do so on a mobile phone might seem even more insane, given the teeny controls and tiny screen that most handsets are endowed with.

But V-Rally 3D somehow makes it work.

The visuals are the most striking aspect of the game, with a fully-realised 3D environment through which to race and lovingly modelled cars that, whilst not comprising officially licensed Subarus and the like, look pleasingly sporty. There's an astounding level of detail on offer and it's truly spectacular to behold when you consider that most other mobile phone racing games are flatter than a tire with a nail in.

The cars move smoothly along the roads that, while sparsely decorated, do offer enough trackside variation to keep your interest. There's no jerky stuttering, and even though the track does sometimes appear just a few car lengths ahead of where you are, enough of the road ahead is visible to make planning a racing line achievable.

If you've got a handset like the Sony Ericsson W550i, you can even rotate the display through 90 degrees so that it's landscape, enabling you to play the game as if you were using a dedicated console.

So the tiny screen on your handset isn't a problem, then.

Sadly the controls on your phone aren't as polished . Driving a rally car is a very different discipline from racing on tarmac and requires a level of throttle and brake control that was incredibly difficult to achieve on our Sony Ericsson K700i review handset.

Although there's an option to have an automatic or manual throttle, neither provides enough finesse for us to recommend one over the other. The automatic throttle means you can't feather it through the corners, while the manual throttle requires you to press up on your handset's thumbpad, something which is hard to do when you're trying to turn at the same time.

Granted, this isn't entirely V-Rally 3D's fault (some handsets are going to be better suited than others) but in the majority of cases it makes the game much harder than needs be, and not enjoyably so, because the times that you need to beat to win events and move up the championship ladder are so tight. Mistakes like brushing against the side of the road or losing acceleration through a corner turn out to be very costly.

And, as lunatics aren't noted for their patience, the game can vary from fun to frustrating every few seconds.

While there's no doubting V-Rally 3D's technical prowess, the player interface lets it down. As a result, only racing fans and hardcore petrolheads are likely to gain any sustained pleasure from it. Everyone else is ensured frequent thrills but, balanced against the fiddly controls, they're more likely to enjoy the scenery than scintilliating speeds.

V-Rally 3D

Like a body-kitted Citroen Saxo, V-Rally 3D looks fast but can't quite deliver on its promise