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APPraisal: Comet Racer

March 29, 2010

The iPhone / iPod Touch excels at small little game apps that didn’t cost much to make, and don’t make you feel bad for tossing down a buck or two to give them a try.  Comet Racer is one of those apps.

Premise

Comet Racer is an arcade-style game by Donut Games in which you control a small spaceship racing through rock mazes to get from point A to point B.  You race against the clock (and your own shadow) to beat the three increasingly faster challenge times.  If you take too much damage, by hitting the side walls or getting hit by missles and so forth, and you lose speed or even blow up.  But get powerups and ship upgrades and you might just beat your fastest time.

Finish each race by at least the slowest of the challenge times, and you unlock the next race.  There are 25 increasingly difficult races in all.

Presentation

The graphics are pretty straightforward here, which it a good thing.  Some games like this can get wrapped up in busy backgrounds that make it difficult to focus on what you’re doing.  Everything in Comet Racer is sharp and colorful without being distracting.  Even the mini-map, which is rudimentary in terms of graphics, is perfect for what it needs to be.

The sound is nothing spectacular.  Again, it’s what it needs to be, nothing more or less.  There is support for playing iTunes music, but I didn’t try it.

The game runs smooth as silk.  The notes say it was updated at one point to eliminate frame rate drops, and I didn’t see anything like that in the latest version that I’ve been playing.

Interface

There are 3 control modes: D-Pad & Thrust, Circle & Thrust, and Ship Circle.  With D-Pad & Thrust, you use left and right arrows in left corner and a thrust button in the right corner to control the ship.  I probably used that the most.  Circle & Thrust is similar, except with the typical circle directional control instead of the arrows.  I tended to oversteer in this mode, but if you get used to it you may be more precise in later levels.  Ship Circle puts a big circle around your ship that you hold and drag the opposite direction that you want to move in.  I had a hard time getting used to that and didn’t use it much.  All choices worked well.

Freshness

Time trial games can be a dime a dozen, but good ones are addicting.  You just know you can do better with one more try.  I actually preferred the earlier levels to the later ones, that got a little over-complicated with missles and tiny paths for my big fat fingers.  But I never felt cheated by the game, just by my lack of skill.

Some games that require you to unlock levels as you go along can be frustrating.  In Comet Racer, you unlock the next level by completing the current race’s slowest qualifying time, which was never really an issue.  Getting that fastest time is the big challenge.

I don’t personally pay much attention to global leaderboards in apps, but I like the implementation of them here, where you are awarded 1 point for each one-hundredth of a second you beat the track qualifying time, and your points are combined for all tracks and compared to others.

Value

The app is a good value at only $1.  This is one of those games you can play when you only have a spare minute or two, and one that you can start playing and get wrapped up in besting yourself, and suddenly you realize that an hour has gone by.  That’s a perfect description for a good iPhone / iPod Touch game.  If you’re in the mood for cheap, addictive time trial game, Comet Racer might be for you.

Summary

Premise: Decent
Presentation: Good
Interface: Good
Freshness: Good
Value: Great
Overall: Above Average App

Want more?  ‘Appy to oblige.  Check out my other APPraisals.

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