I love me some iPhone racing games. iOS device’s gyroscope allows for tilt controls that keep me from covering anything on the screen with my fat fingers. Games like Need for Speed and Real Racing incorporate unique game design mechanics into the tilt control method and are surprisingly fun experiences. Gymkhana RPM‘s on-road rally and drifting mechanic would be right up there with the best portable racing themes… if it wasn’t so hampered by a poor control scheme.
Game developers: when making touchscreen racing games DO NOT EVER use virtual buttons as your control methods. They cover up the screen in the worst possible way, and remove us from the experience by turning a deep racing game into a poorly-controlled RC car experience.
Gymkhana RPM lives by virtual buttons (or wheels) and ultimately dies because of them.
The game’s premise, driving around a course full of pylons and obstacles to rack up the most points possible, is actually a fairly interesting concept, reminiscent of Ken Block’s early feats. The game is mission-based, asking us to either rack up enough points drifting, slide around or between colored pylons, or take corners at high speeds, and is set in some nicely-designed environments and courses. The visuals are crisp and clean and work well on the iPhone’s small screen. The small selection of unlockable cars isn’t anything out of the ordinary (Minis and Camaros abound) but the perspective is set so far up that the detail of the vehicles is lost.
It’s kind of like looking at a Hot Wheels car sliding down a driveway.
But again: the controls. So much of this kind of stunts-based racing relies on being able to perfectly control my car; executing emergency brakes or counter-steers at the right time is crucial. Gymkhana RPM just doesn’t have a good grip on the concept. The on-screen controls register as either “on” or “off” in one direction or another, never really giving me the feeling of actually driving. It actually felt more like I was “pushing” the car around.
I’m hopeful that a future update gives it more “traditional” iOS controls, but until then the game is sadly undriveable. It’s too bad, because the concept is strong enough to warrant a proper release.
This review is based on a copy of the game sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.