Not quite a blast
Developer: Mad Processor Release Date: 5 December 2012 Review Platform: iOS
I love games that boil our great hobby down it’s most basic elements, stuff like ‘Elephants In Space’, ‘Mutant Postmen Strike Again’, and that famous classic ‘Zombies in My Fridge’. These are all real videogames by the way.
So with ‘Motorblast’, we’ve got a very simple premise – Racing cars with weapons. Yes, that’s all there is to it. If only everything was that simple. You take control of a rugged vehicle, zoom around the track, and attempt to blow your rival races away with random weapons such as machine guns, landmines and rocket launchers found in crates around the course. It’s Mario kart-esque, except that the only relation to Mario Kart is the weapons in boxes. A tenuous link? Perhaps. But this is me we’re talking about. Everything I write is based on tenuous links.
The thing that’s immediately apparent about ‘Motorblast’ is it’s impressive graphics, especially the detailed environments. Starting in a jungle level you’ll notice dust kick up from your tires, lush foliage and superb lighting, all capped off with impressive camera glare. These guys are clearly showing off.
The vehicles are also nice to look at, and feature some cool physics and damage modelling when crashed into or blown up, as well as one very useful camera angle which allows you to see a wide view of the racetrack. Curiously though,the models don’t feature any shadows, which makes them look as if they’re floating round the terrain rather than driving on it. Was this an oversight by the developer, or are these meant to be ghost cars?
Still, this is a well presented package. The UI is slick, sharp and stylish with nice transition animations and the sound might actually be the best part of the game. Well, maybe not, but it is impressive. It’s not so much the music which grabs your attention (it’s actually pretty generic and sounds like something you might find on a budget gameshow), but the small effects such as the horn which signals the start of the race, the ambient jungle noises and the mechanical sound of your chain gun preparing to fire which are very well done. Yes, they’re almost minute details, but it’s the little things in life, isn’t it?
But it’s the small things that ultimately keep ‘Motorblast’ from being a much more impressive package. This is a game with a strong foundation and good look, so it’s disappointing there are only six vehicles to choose which don’t all even make it onto the track (races consist of only four cars). Also a let down is the distinct lack of excitement on the courses. It is fun to collect a weapons crate and proceed to blow your rivals up (when is blowing someone up not fun?), but although they look lovely, the courses themselves are bland in terms of design. There are no environmental hazards, no split pathways, no jumps. Each race is simply a circular procession to the finish line.
Not that it’s easy. The slightest touch from another racer and you’ll spin out of control, and you won’t be automatically placed back on the track either, which makes it very hard to catch up. It’s best then, to avoid skirmishes unless you’ve got a big ass gun equipped. I always have felt that new guns made cars better, but the Police never seem to agree. In one game type, you have to outwit your opponents using only speed and landmines, which you toss behind you. The problem is the density of shadow in levels, such as the jungle, make it very hard to spot them. They clearly used all their shadow filters for the level terrain and not the cars. Your vehicles will be hopping and skipping every two meters as a fire gets lit under, and eventually you’ll cut your losses and restart the race. Call it journalistic intuition, but I don’t think this is the way the developers wanted the game to be played.
You’ll also wish there was more to this title. Things seem to have been overlooked, and the balance between features you'd expect as stock from a racing game appear to have been sacrificed for the quality visuals and presentation. Steering isn't very involved, and you can't control your drifts around corners, leading to a somewhat sterile racing model, so why no gas button? Sure there are over 50 stages to keep you busy, as well as extended ‘Infinity Mode’ extended missions, (gain stars for performance on each level to unlock new ones), and there is some good variety in the game types, but where's the option to upgraded vehicles or weapons? An in-game shop? The ability to customise your vehicle? These things are now standard in games of this type as to be almost mundane, but it’s only when they’re not included that you start to miss them. The game feels a little soulless as a result.
In conclusion though, I do have to tell on myself. Multiplayer is featured, but I didn't get to test it because it’s only available on iOS6 and my phone is still rocking iOS 5.1 because it’s jailbroken. Is that a fault of the game, or myself? Is a professional games reviewer allowed to have a jailbroken phone, or does it contravene a sacred law of journalism? Perhaps I’ve made a massive mess of things this week, although I've heard there aren't many players in the multiplayer suite at the moment anyway. That's not a fault of the game itself, but it certainly doesn't help. Anyway, I think I’ll make a swift exit before someone throws something at me. Like a landmine.