iPhone Life magazine

Review: Cubed Rally Racer by No Can Win

I’ve always been more of a top down or isometric view racing fan than a first / third person view one, so Cubed Rally Racer should be right up my alley.  The truth is that in some ways it is.  On the other hand, I find it quite frustrating.  The problem is, even when I get completely frustrated I find myself having to play just one more time.  Oh the irony of it all.  It’s a good thing this game requires two hands, or I’m not sure I’d have any hair left after a few sessions.

Your task is simple – finish the race.  It’s just you against the track.  There are no other cars to race (unless you count the ghost image of yourself).  Add to that the fact that most races can be completed in 30 to 45 seconds, and this should be a piece of cake, right?  It’s always the simple things that are the most deceiving.  The first thing you’ll notice is that the developers have a twisted sense of humor.  I say this because probably 75% of the gas cans you’ll run across are tucked nicely along the edge of the road, usually on nasty turns, and this is one of those games where you can – and will – fall of the track.  Of course, this wouldn’t be such a big deal except that if you run out of gas the car stops, so you really can’t avoid the gas cans.  You also have to remember that yellow gas cans give you a temporary speed boost, so getting one of those as you’re heading around a curve can be quite devastating.

Here Come Da' Cows



There are a couple of things that really make this game work.  The first is that the tracks are randomly generated, and they are comprised of a myriad of different obstacles.  There’s everything from the benign like misplaced foliage and little walls that have to be jumped with ramps to the “Dukes Of Hazzard” like jumping over a ship passing through a retracted bridge.  There are even little swamps with docks that take you conveniently right to the middle of the swamp (bad), and three lane underpasses where the lane you come out in is not necessarily the lane you went in on.  My favorites, however, are the moles and cows.  They’re just as deadly if you run into them, but the cows especially crack me up every time I see them.  The one down side to the random generation is that tracks aren’t saved if you have to quit the game for some reason, so if you’re struggling with a track and you really want to beat it you have to do so before you shut the game off.

The controls are quite basic but they can also be rather frustrating.  There is a gas pedal to move the car forward and arrows to turn the car left and right.  One problem is that you can’t change the direction the car is facing when it’s standing still.  However, there’s not really a medium ground for speed unless you’re constantly tapping the gas pedal and letting off, so you really have to learn to adjust the car accurately while at full speed, which is really hard to do when you get the yellow cans that temporarily accelerate your speed.  The controls are certainly workable, but they do get annoying at times.

When it comes right down to it, though, Cubed Rally Racer is about the graphics.  I’ve read in a couple places where they call this a tribute to old school racers, and that may certainly be true in the game play, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it visually.  The track is drawn in an isometric perspective, and everything is quite literally blocky – but in a good way.  This is most amusing when it comes to things like the spectators, which are basically cylinders for a body and a sphere for a head, and cows, with their huge block bodies that pretty much hide their faces.  Even the “particle effects” of smoke coming out of the exhaust look blocky.  Whoever came up with this visual style was brilliant, as it’s unlike any racer I’ve played on the iPhone to date.

Jump The Boat



Unfortunately, I think the sound people were asleep during production and at the last minute they realized the game needed some noise.  Your basic sounds are the acceleration / deceleration of the car, a weak crash when you hit something, and a bit of fanfare when you finish a race.  So many great opportunities were missed, like boat whistles, cheers when you take off, and of course the necessary mooing of the cows.  Some music would also be nice, since there presently is none.  The game really needs some background music.

The truth is that when I first played this game I didn’t really like it.  Now, however, I can’t start a race unless I know I’ll have time to play through it again and again until I beat it, because I can’t let a track get the best of me.  To say the game has grown on me is an understatement.  I will say that I’d love to see a full fledged racer with competitors and such done in this same graphical style, because while this game is a blast it would be so much more fun to knock another racer off the road.  Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with this one as it’s quite different than just about anything else you’ll play in this genre right now.

Overall Score: 8/10
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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.