Review by Matt Dunn
With games like Enigmo and Bugdom 2, Pangea Software seems to be doing well for themselves on the App store. In fact, as I write this review, Cro-Mag Rally is the top game in iTunes. How does Cro-Mag size up to current games as the first 3-D kart racer to be released on the App store?
Cro-Mag Rally is set roughly in the early history of the world. Even though you play as a caveman or cavewoman character, not all the tracks are stuck in the Stone Age. The gameplay sticks closely to other kart racing games out there, and reminded me of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64.
From the get-go, you have access to all 9 tracks in the game and can play them in any order. They are set in various exotic locals, from tropic jungles, to snowy mountains, to the Great Wall of China, and even the lost city of Atlantis. The levels are lush, look great, and have quite a bit going on. From animated dinosaurs, to polar bears, to civilians walking around, there are plenty of things to get in your way as you try to complete the race. Interestingly enough, the most fun I had was with the Atlantis track, which is an all out submarine race.
It takes only about a lap or two to get the hang of controlling your kart in Cro-Mag. That’s fairly impressive considering how much is going on in the game. Tilt your iPhone to steer, with sharp turns going into a power slide. There are on-screen buttons for accelerating, reverse, and firing items forward or behind you. The tilt controls rarely quirky, and overall everything seems quite responsive.
The graphics in Cro-Mag are very impressive for an iPhone launch game. Even more impressive is the smooth frame rate. Issues only come up in the first 5-10 seconds of a race. Everything after that is butter, even with all the map animations and AI karts driving around! The menu graphics are also great, and the experience from starting the game to launching a race feels very polished. There is a neat option to race in 1st person mode which looks very cool, but is a bit too difficult for my taste.
This game’s sound also speaks volumes for how much attention to detail Pangea poured into this game. There is a different song for each track, as well as the main menu. These songs are also reminiscent to me of the N64 kart racing days, and go well with the themes. Nothing was pulled for sound effects either. Everything from a caveman voice shouting “nice shot” when you land a weapon hit, to the screeching and revving of your kart rounds out the audio/visual experience.
Speaking of weapons, this game is chuck full of them! Each track has at least one weapon related to the level theme, and there are standard power-ups as well. Oil slicks, Roman Candles, ice blocks, and torpedoes to name a few. I found than on easy difficulties, these really aren’t needed, but you will find youself using them once you challenge the harder AI.
One place where Cro-Mag falls short is the lack of any interesting game modes, or a story. There is a “Gather” mode that is simply racing – with the added task of collecting arrowheads around the map. This proves to be quite a pain in some levels, and isn’t very fun. So that leaves the standard race mode. With no unlock able karts, characters, maps, or anything, racing on the same 9 maps can get old fast.
Another strange omission in Cro-Mag is lap and race times! No ghost player to race against, no top 10 track times to compete with friends. Huh!? Would it really have been that difficult to include this? I was really hoping something would unlock after beating all the maps, and was quite disappointing when it took me right to the main menu, as it did all the other times I beat a race.
Finally, my big question to Pangea is: Where’s the multiplayer!? Throw in wifi play and a battle arena mode, and Cro-Mag’s value would grow exponentially! Or what about new tracks via an App store update? I have this little game of yours, you see. It looks pretty, it sounds pretty… hell it even plays well! But damned if I will ever revisit the game now that I’ve played all the tracks through.
Presentation & Graphics:8
Cro-Mag is one of the best-looking early iPhone games. Lush environments, great animations, imaginative tracks, and an especially awesome final track that pleasantly surprises.
There are console games that could take a lesson from Cro-Mag’s well polished and robust library of sound and music. A couple effects are a bit low quality.
Great use of a tilt control/touch button combination with only a few quirks. Very easy to pickup and learn after a lap or two. Harder game modes prove quite a challenge, and require tricky item use and track shortcuts to reach first place.
Game life: 2
Two almost identical race modes, and that’s it? Nine tracks that are entertaining… for a couple races? No lap times? Unlockables? Achievements? MULTIPLAYER?!
Game rating: 7
For $1.99 (sale price, I wouldn’t pay much more), Cro-Mag delivers a fantastic gaming experience – one of the best for the iPhone – for the brief hour or two it takes you to beat the 9 tracks it delivers. Sadly, without any extended features, race modes, story, lap records, multiplayer, or updated content, this is one of those games that will quickly gather dust at the bottom of your iPhone menu pages. But hey, even short rides can be fun, right?