Week in Mobile: Jacob Jones, Turbo Racing League, and Redline Rush
Every Saturday here on GameZone, we’ll review a handful of new titles released for iOS and Android and update you on the biggest news we covered.
Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery – Episode 1
Jacob Jones is one of the cutest new titles to release not just on PlayStation Vita but mobile (for $2.99) as well, so I leapt at the chance to try it on my iOS device. The paper-cutout-meets-claymation style captures the feeling of a summer camp adventure perfectly, and the animation — complete with voice-acting — always looks natural even when the dialogue is paused.
Style only takes the game so far, though. Camp Eagle Feather is a retreat full of sometimes charming, sometimes annoying characters who do little to engage players who have encountered these stereotypes before. Jacob himself is the least likeable. He’s too polite and mature to be compelling, and he sounds years older than the tiny kid actually is.
Worse are the puzzles, which aren’t the fun kind of brainteasers you might be hoping for. These tasks involve finding the shortest path to the goal or figuring out someone’s age based on a riddle. Yes, they’re the kind of puzzles you found annoying when you were 12-years-old, flipping through issues of Highlights, and you probably gave up on them then. Chances are you have even less patience now.
That may be a little harsh. Not every puzzle in Jacob Jones is disappointing, but most are frustrating although developer Lucid Games has built in a robust hint system to help you through. You can bypass puzzles if they give you trouble, but eventually you’ll need to complete them if you want to progress to the end.
Some challenges are misleading, though, or kind of broken. At one point, you have to cut a pizza into slices with certain toppings so everyone’s happy, but the pizza cutter’s lines always shift when you make the incision. Another puzzle, which involves placing shepherds at different points around a series of paths, deliberately confuses because while the characters’ eyes move in different directions, indicating that they might be better suited for particular positions, it’s just meaningless animation that has nothing to do with the solution.
It’s nice that Jacob Jones can take some classic puzzle designs and make them interactive and more creative by providing insight into how they work (after you beat them, of course), but these probably aren’t the kind you’d jump to spend your time on either way.
Turbo Racing League
PikPok, the company behind Robot Unicorn Attack 2, has released a racing game based on Turbo, the upcoming DreamWorks animated film. Turbo Racing League is free to download for iOS and Android, but be prepared for some high stakes.
Putting a spoiler or any other part on a car is nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s weird to upgrade and glamorize what is essentially a snail’s rear end. Otherwise, Turbo is a fairly average racing game — with in-air stunts for players to perform, shortcuts to take, and even rails to grind on. Time attacks, rival and ranked races, and slalom challenges all spice up the go-fast priority of gameplay. You flick your snail to kick off — a fun twist on the start-line approach — and from there, it’s all about burning up the track.
Thankfully, the game offers several different control methods so players can figure out what works best for them. I prefer the second option, where pressing the left and right sides of the screen steers and holding both ends causes the snail to slide around curves. I found this gave me a lot more control than tilting the screen, for example.
Players must complete a number of races before they can enter a class championship to try for the cup, but this is where the game reveals how tightly coiled around in-app purchases (IAP) it really is. Tomatoes are the virtual currency, and they litter the track. They’re what players use to tune up their snails and purchase new enhancements — or, if they want more faster, they can spend real money for tomatoes in the shop.
It’s not long before Turbo Racing League becomes all about cost. Entering cups requires a fee, and even though the payout for winning is high, you have to relinquish practically all of it on a new class license. The game then kindly provides a new class shell at no cost, but then you’re back down to zero on modifications — and the price for tune-ups and parts jacks up higher.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the cups weren’t dependent on a high-level racer, meaning you need to invest a little in your snail’s performance before you can make it through all three rounds successfully. The game offers little challenge otherwise; cups are the true test.
And because the tracks are so similar, players are forced to replay them to reap rewards little by little or pay up with cash to speed ahead. I actually enjoyed Turbo Racing League for what it was, but not enough to put up with mindless repetition just to stay in first place.
Imagine outrunning the cops in an expensive sports car the same way you would flee from angry monkeys in Temple Run, and you’ve got Redline Rush in a nutshell. It’s a fun cross between an arcade racer where slow-motion crashes are king and the endless-runner gameplay of Imangi Studios’ popular series, and the combination works surprisingly well.
It is weird to be collecting shiny coins on a road as you avoid traffic and police blockades — a helicopter chasing from above even drops grenades — and your basic car moves at a much more sluggish speed than players might like, but the style grows on you the same way it does in Temple Run. It’s addictive.
You can customize cars with vinyl or paint jobs, and each model you buy carries a different bonus — an increase to coin pick-ups or score, for example. Unlocking upgrades or buying boosts works much the same way as it does in the aforementioned runner, but you can also obtain power-ups on the road. These include coins magnets and score multipliers; nitro temporarily throttles your car forward and gets you points for crashing, and so on.
Redline Rush doesn’t hold players back with IAP like Turbo Racing League does, but you do need to keep racing to be able to purchase higher-level cars or earn enough coins to unlock a couple new tracks, which feature more coins or gems (higher payouts of coins) on the roadways. But the game is fun enough that you’ll want to burn rubber until you do.
These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.
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