By Eric Pankoke on Sat, 05/09/2009
Since the iPhone world seems to be filled with causal gamers, I'm really surprised G.I. Joyride got overlooked. The game is made by Trapdoor Inc., and it's the kind of mindless, humorous entertainment that can keep you busy for minutes... or hours if you're not careful.
The premise is simple. You're a couple of soldiers driving an APC through enemy territory in a WWII setting. Though it's not mentioned, my impression is that the "enemy" is Nazi Germans. In the end it doesn't matter though. The fact is you get to drive recklessly, running over everything in your path, and it's just plain fun. The course is randomly generated every time, and is comprised of everything from long bridges to the insides of warehouses. And naturally there's the enemy soldiers themselves. Some are kind enough to just stand their pointlessly shooting at you until you take them down, while others hopelessly flee and make you chase them down. The only real dangers are that you might get bombed if you stay stationary too long (the five second rule applies here) or that you might flip your vehicle such that you can't get right side up again (I've fallen and I can't get up!) Either way the run is over. To tell the truth, I'm not sure that there's a win situation, because I don't normally last very long before I cause the APC to flip fatally. The controls are pretty simple once you understand what the help screen is trying to explain. Tilting the device controls whether there's more weight on the front or back of the vehicle (to help maintain balance). There's a slide meter at the bottom of the screen that determines your speed. You'll constantly be adjusting both weight and speed to keep rolling on (for me mostly weight gets adjusted, which might explain my lack of survival skills).
The game is drenched in humor - depending on how morbid you are. There's a sick satisfaction to watching the soldiers run away only to get plowed down, or watching bodies fly as you knock someone off a bridge or rooftop. Of course, for the sensitive types you can turn off the blood, but if you were really sensitive you probably wouldn't be playing this in the first place! There a several records to be made or broken, from the mundane like Average Speed to the humorous like Best Wheelie. The ranks earned are silly, and the end game scenarios when you crash and burn are often amusing. One time my soldiers were captured and depicted washing windows for punishment. If anything I'd complain that there's a lack of variety in game play, but too much to do might overcomplicate the premise of this particular game.
The graphics are very well done. The engine renders quite smoothly on my 2nd generation iPod Touch, but there are several options that can be disabled for better performance on slower machines. Details abound, though you're unlikely to notice too much as you're flying by the scenery. This really isn't one of those games where you can just "stop and smell the roses". From the constant barrage of gunfire to the roar of the engines form planes flying above, the sound effects are vintage war game material. The music has a nice ragtime / big band sound to it, but sadly only plays during the menu. I suppose since this feels to me like a mini-game from the video game version of Good Morning Vietnam (if there was one and the movie took place in WWII), I would have expected some music to play in the background that matched the mood of the game.
A lot of people are going to find the game to be too repetitive for it's own good. Those are the people that should probably play it for only a few minutes at a time. Personally, I got too engrossed in trying to run people over and flip my vehicle multiple times in a row to care about the recycled backgrounds. The mechanics are simple, the premise is fun, and the visuals and sound effects make for a vibrant environment. This is one game I'll be playing in short spurts for a long time to come.