Speed baby speed! Ionocraft Racing is all about zooming past the murky brown buildings at full pelt. It is lonely at the top, but in Ionocraft Racing it is always lonely. That is because this racer is a pure time trial ordeal. No bragging rights, no scuffing and nothing else to do than focus on taking corners perfectly. Still the game has a great sense of progression due to requirements to unlock the next track, and a basic but still enjoyable customization feature.
The controls only consists of a throttle, and a selection of input variations for movement. An analogue slider option didn’t work that well for me, and I ended up swerving back and forth the entire race. The tilt version is usable, but can be a bit too slow when you try to navigate hairpins. The third option is the one that has worked the best for me: digital. This gives two arrows, and I managed to keep the craft straight when needed to.
Time trials across 13 tracks is what the game offers, and initially this is really fun. Much of the fun is the fact that you earn money, and unlock parts for the craft while racing. Going back to the garage, and placing a new engine or steering booster is really rewarding. Sure the customization aspect could have been sleeker with easier to spot placements. Once the craft reaches the optimal configuration based on your preferences the game looses most of the appeal to me. Not only because there is nothing to earn money for, but also because the higher speed makes the game jerk with dropping frame rates.
The presentation is murky, dark with a strong steampunk inspiration. To me it is a bit too drab, and there is a definite lack of wow factor. A game like Wipeout is filled with lighting effects, cool textures and visual cues. In Ionocraft Racing it feels like I am racing through sewers, and at time that is exactly what I do. The music is ok, and so is the sound effects. Something would have been needed to break up the loneliness, and I would like to have some kind of companion telling me that I am doing great or something.
Ionocraft Racing is a mixed bag to score. The first thirty minutes are really fun with a lot of customization. Then it turns to a lonely brown mess, and I lost my interest. This happens both on the iPhone, and on the iPad. My iPad 2 managed to handle the frame rate issues better than my iPhone 4. The larger screen however meant that I had more brown buildings, brown roads and dark skies in front of my face. I hope to see a sequel with actual competition, or at the very least online ghosts to race.