As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of the racing game genre. But after a few runs on the track with this game I was convinced that there’s more to racing than my unparalleled ability to lose. With only a couple of minor hickups that could easily be improved upon with an update or two, Rally Master Pro 3D from FishLabs otherwise ended up being a pretty fun experience.
As the first mobile gaming platform with an accelerometer, there can be no doubt about the iPhone’s influence on racing games. Steering, however, can still be something a little difficult to get used to. During my first time around the track, my car seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the wall. I passed the finish line without a hood, one door crushed, the other off the hinges, the backside looking like a Birdseye view of a hilly landscape and in double the time to beat. My frustrations did ease however, when I realized just how awesome all of this looked! The physics of the hood flying off the front, the glisten of the exterior as the door opened from the sheer force of a blow, the beautiful paintjob that I had promptly destroyed – the visuals in Rally Master Pro 3D are truly impressive.
As averse to racing games as I am I still wasn’t going to settle for that kind of result, so I steeled myself, leaned forward, grabbed the iPhone as though it was a steering wheel and started over – which I found to be suspiciously easy. At the end of every run you are given the choice to either accept your results or start over with a clean slate giving the player no sense of consequence. This would be fine for a casual gamer who jut wants a ride around the track, but this wasn’t just some time trial, this was career mode, and it just felt a little bit too easy to do away with your mistakes.
Regardless, I started over. And I was surprised to see that I was actually excelling! During your races, there’s a British man’s voice who is your constant companion on the track. He tells you what the weather conditions are, where to turn and how well you’ve done at each checkpoint. This might have been annoying if it weren’t so soothing and British. He, too, however expressed how pleased he was that I was beating the times to beat. It took a couple more tries, but eventually I was able to take first place on this track, resulting in my literally throwing a fist into the air with glee! Which, if you know me, is completely out of character.
This went on for a few tracks as the difficulty and road conditions increased, and after a couple of runs my car was a little banged up. It was time to repair my car – and this is one point where the game really shines. In order to repair your car, you can let your team handle it and do a pretty good job, or you can help them out in order to potentially regain 100% of your car’s original mint condition. You help them out by playing one of a series of mini games including a block puzzle game where you connect two ends of a green wire and a game where you fill the tires with air and use a pressure gauge to see if it’s right. These games are timed, and if you get it right within the alotted time you win back your car’s full health. This is a welcome break from the game proper and a little time-out to do something simple while you prepare for the next set of tracks.
The controls in Rally Master Pro 3D are simple and exactly what you might expect from an iPhone racing game. Automatic acceleration, tip to turn and a little button for the the brake. This button, when held, also throws you into reverse should you need it to. In one particular run I was doing very well. I had passed all the checkpoints in record time and was coming up on the final stretch when I made a sharp turn, utilizing the brake button, and… failed to come out of it! The brake button had not disengaged! My thumb was completely clear of the screen and the brake button was still highlighted yellow as though it was being pushed! I started going backward. At this point I had completely lost the round (good thing I can start over with a clean slate). I pushed the brake button again and it disengaged when I let go, allowing me to continue the few feet left to the finish line… in last place. This is just a tiny problem, but with MAJOR consequences. And it’s the biggest reason this game doesn’t get a full 10/10 rating. This happened two or three times while I was playing and each time it shot my time up way beyond what I was aiming for.
All in all, Rally Master Pro 3D is a good game. It surpassed my negative, biased expectations and proved itself to be an enjoyable game (when the brake worked correctly). Beautiful graphics, ease of control and fun minigames make it one of the best racing games I’ve ever played on a mobile device. And coming from me, that means a lot.
Rally Master Pro 3D requires the iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with both iPhone and iPod Touch.