True Axis enter the driving genre on the iPhone and iPod Touch with Jet Car Stunts. But can this high adrenaline, balls to the wall, extreme racer offer anything new to make it stand out from the crowd?…
Yes the name sounds a bit naff, but the gameplay is far from it. Taking you up thousands of feet above the ground, you must take part in either platforming or time trial events over perilous tracks made up of floating platforms of twists, turns, jumps and loops.
Unlike other driving games, it’s not about racing careers, simulation or multiplayer… this is a pure single player experience based on raw speed, nerves and skill!
You are given a shiny red car, and where it differs from most high performance cars is that strapped to its nether regions is a fat jet pack. Whether you are taking part in the game’s main platforming mode, or the time trial events, the jet pack is your critical friend. While your car packs a pretty punch from the engine alone, only combined with the jet pack will you be able to take on the demands of the later tracks and it’s jumps, loops and gravity defying obstacles. The jet pack has a finite amount of power though, so you must use it sparingly. Checkpoints are available at certain points on each track which will refill the jet’s power bar (and timer in time trial mode). When in the air the car has limited flight ability, while under jet power you can raise and pitch the nose using the devices tilt function… and should you feel that you have been a bit overzealous with the jet, you an activate an airbrake allowing you to slow and glide down to safety. These controls are available from touch based buttons on screen, as well as some of the best left/right tilt implementation for turning the vehicle.
As I mentioned in my preview a few weeks back, I absolutely love the graphical style. It’s minimalist yes, but still a sight to behold. Wrapped in a photographic environmental background of clouds and the earth thousands of feet below, the tracks are made up of flat coloured low poly objects. Yes, the iPhone and iPod Touch are capable of more detailed models, but in this case when you are thrashing around these tracks, it all moves so fast and smooth that it doesn’t really matter. The lighting is so well done that the game world feels no less tangible than if it was strewn in high-res textures. It has an HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) look about it, and whether the game is rendering this in realtime, or the light and shadows have been baked onto the objects, it looks a treat!
True Axis have opted out of providing a soundtrack to the thrilling gameplay, well something you would consider music. You see, the throaty tones of the cars’ engine and jet system is music to my ears, and it wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that it dawned on me that there was no music, it really isn’t key to the game. Some kind of iPod integration would be nice in a future update though, as some of those tracks are screaming out for a pumping techno beat from the likes of the Prodigy or some techno-rock tones of Muse.
Jet Car stunts puts good use to online features with Open Feint implementation. Much like Above and Beyond: Air Combat as you progress you will unlock various Xbox live style achievements, which you can share over Open Feint with friends on your list as well as boast your greatness on the leader boards. It works well, and gives you increased incentive to replay levels and beat your friends scores/times. It doesn’t feature any full multiplayer, and I’d love to see Youtube replays and a track editor like TrackMania on the DS… but, even in this stripped back state it’s a blast to play.
To me Jet Car Stunts is the perfect iPhone and iPod Touch game. It makes great use of touch and accelerometer features to not only create one of the best, and most addictive driving games on the platform, but an experience that, for me, can’t easily be recreated on another device (except maybe the Wii and PS3 controllers). Sure, you could use analogue sticks of a regular controller, but it wouldn’t feel quite the same. I’ve played hundreds of games on my iPhone, and I can honestly say that this is the most fun I’ve had, thus far!
Jet Car Stunts is out now for $1.99