A preeminent arcade racing franchise for the iPad: Reckless Racing 1–3

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IMG_0489The App Store is replete with driving games, the majority of them arcade-styleracers. Every week a few more take their place amid the millions of apps in the store. But very few of them are worth your $0.99, or even more importantly, worth your time. Polarbit games, the people behind the Reckless Racing franchise have done a great job of making a fun and compelling top-down arcade racer for the iPad, three times running. Each Reckless Racing game combines detailed arcade-style graphics, rich multi-mode and multi-level race opportunities, and super-accurate controls that let you win or lose based on your abilities.

All three games share the same top-down view of the race course, your car, and your competitors. In race mode, you line up against five other competitors and steer your car around a dirt and/or tarmac course as fast as you can without spinning out, or driving into obstacles such as trees, ditches, or off a bridge into the water. There is a lot of bumping and pushing going on between cars, and you can use this to your advantage but also get abuse from your competitors as well. You start out with a basic race car and as you win races you earn money to upgrade your car or buy a faster one.

Let me say at the outset that one of the main things that sets the Reckless Racing series apart for me is the accuracy of the controls. There are three steering setups available: gyro, mini-steering-wheel, and left/right arrows. You can also alter the sensitivity of the steering, which I use to keep from overcorrecting after every turn. Polarbit has taken great pains to get the controls right and precise, which makes a huge difference in how enjoyable Reckless Racing is to play. While, sure, these kinds of arcade racers are an un-serious escape or time filler, still, nobody likes to be leading a race and have ham-handed controls send them off the short end of a pier to lose the race; it’s just frustrating. With Reckless Racing your little car will respond exactly to your inputs as you would expect. There are also controls for gas and brake and in versions 2 and 3 you can even move the buttons around the screen. After practicing with all three steering setups I like the left/right arrows the best, but obviously your preferences may vary.

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For an arcade game the physics are also incredibly realistic. For someone who’s spent some time motor-racing in the dirt, albeit on two wheels, the method of going fast in RR is very realistic: slow in, out fast, inside line wins most every time. This is why I immediately disabled the auto-gas feature: giving a little off-the-gas pause before entering a turn sets you up for better traction and a quicker turn, passing your competitors quickly on the inside. And most arcade racers just lack this amount of realism: gas-on all the time wins, if you can control the car (which many times you can’t).

As you would expect, the graphics get better between versions 1, 2, and 3. As the iPad’s graphics have gotten better and the processors gotten more capable, Reckless Racing has kept pace and taken advantage of the advancements. If you only played version 1, you would never notice anything wanting in the graphics department. But going from version 3 back to version 1, it looks slightly pixilated and rough. In my hours of playing each version I never got a single stutter or crash.

Driving modes available are: career where you gain points, money, and can trade up cars; arcade, where the cars and tracks are chosen for you; hot lap which is a solo time trial in which you try to beat your best lap time, elimination where the last car to pass the start/finish line is eliminated; drift which is exactly what it sounds like: spend your time sideways; gymkhana, a driving obstacle course of source, and multiplayer. Version 1 has an odd delivery mode where you drive a truck to pick up and deliver items. I found it less fun than the others, and I guess it was unpopular as Polarbit discontinued it for version 2. Each mode has many tracks to try; even if you only buy one version of RR, you’re going to play for a longggg time before you run out of new tracks to conquer. Version 1 offers two levels of difficulty: easy or hard. Versions 2 and 3 automatically adjust the difficulty based on your play, and while you can override this feature if you want, it worked great for me.

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Cars available: in version 1 you pick an avatar/car combo and that’s what you get for the time you play. The six choices each have their own attributes in terms of speed and handling. Version 2 offers the most choice: 18 cars, each of which has its own handling/speed/acceleration attributes. And the descriptions are very accurate: if you pick a slower car rated with better handling, you can see that difference expressed on the race course. Each car can be further modified to enhance these attributes by, for example, buying better tires or a smoother intake valve. Version 3 offers many more cars, but no per-car modification for performance. I liked version 2’s ability to fine-tune the performance of my chosen car, but version 3 makes up for it by having so many more cars. Version 1 is sweet simplicity and doesn’t seem too limiting.

Version 1 offers no in-app purchases. Versions 2 and 3 offer in-app purchases to buy better cars, or to buy add-ons for your current car. In career mode I didn’t really need the in-app purchases to have enough cash to buy upgrades and a new car or two. I have to admit to being no fan of in-app purchases, but they’re implemented here in an unobtrusive way: they never get in the way of the game play. And for you, dear readers, I spent big ($0.99) and tried an in-app purchase so I could tell you how it went: it was quick, painless, and my one buck got me a car so fast I had a string of first-place finishes that almost became boring.

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As we reported previously, Polarbit has a driving bundle that includes these three games and two more (also good titles), for only $4.99. Reckless Racing 1 was originally selling for $0.99 but is currently showing as “not available in the US iTunes store” so seems only available in the bundle. Here is a link for Reckless Racing 2 which is $1.99. Here is a link for Reckless Racing 3 which is $2.99. I recommend you grab the bundle while it’s still available. If you want to try only one version to start, I recommend version 2 for its car customization features.


Marc Luoma

I'm an iPad, and iPhone enthusiast, Mac user since '84, world traveler, dog and cat lover, living in Kigali Rwanda for a year.

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