Driving in the city is a nightmare. Penned-in on all sides by dull steel and concrete, jerking from stop to stop, scrimmaging for space and movement like a pig in a packed herd, it's easy to forget that cars can go fast and that driving them can be fun.
Thank goodness there are racing games to remind us.
World Rally Championship is the latest mobile conversion to pull up at Pocket Gamer towers, and it's revving a 3D engine. There have been several Java 3D racing games on mobile, and for the most part they've been excellent, with Juiced 2 receiving a silver award and Project Gotham and Need for Speed: Carbon both securing the coveted gold. A promising precedent, but how does World Rally Championship fare in this difficult race? Let's take a look.
You have the choice of two game modes: Arcade and Championship. In the former, you need to win a series of eight races at various points around a spinning, 3D globe, with each victory unlocking your progress to the next. During each of these races you have three opponents, and you need to place higher and higher as you make your way through Arcade mode in order to continue.
In Championship mode, you're racing alone to reach checkpoints within time limits, and after each race a new feature unlocks, such as an Acceleration or Braking bonus, and these help you to compete in later tracks.
So far, so so-so, but here's where things start to get good. The eight tracks are substantially different from one another, in both look and feel. The packed snow of Norway is palpably slippery, and the grit of Mexico feels different from its stretches of tarmac. The huge puddles that you drive through on some of the tracks half-submerge your car and send it slowly skidding.
While the limits of our real life travels prevent us from commenting on most of the locations, we can reveal that the England track is identifiably, impressively England, with tarmac roads, rolling green countryside, and a troubled sky. Greece is hot and dusty, meanwhile, and Monaco is rustic and mountainous.
The background detail is nice. Mountains, hills, and skies decorate the far distance while all along the roadside there are drywalls, flowerbeds, dilapidated buildings, villages, bridges, tunnels, and – best of all – crowds of spectators whose cameras flash and pop as you thunder past. These kinds of subtle detail abound.
However, while you might come for the graphics, you stay for the gameplay. As with everything in World Rally Championship , developer Firemint has chosen to keep things simple, eschewing separate keys for powerslides in favour of a pared-down interface in which braking is rarely necessary, and '5', combined with a bit of deft steering, lets you do all the drifting you need.
Simple though the interface may be, however, it more than covers all the basics. The steering itself is fluid and responsive, and you can even switch to bumper camera if you prefer to drive from that perspective.
In Championship mode, your car takes damage whenever you collide with scenery, adding tension to the solitary races, and you have the option to activate a ghost car so that you have an object to pursue.
With fewer options and more basic controls than many of its direct competitors, World Rally Championship doesn't seem like much on the surface. However, its quality runs deep, and while the game undoubtedly would have benefited from a more generous complement of features, solid racing and a host of understated flourishes keep it firmly in the front ranks of the race.