Ionocraft Racing Shows Good Ideas, But Gameplay is a Bit Dull

Ionocraft RacingPAN Vision is a Swedish company that has come up with some incredibly novel ideas for iOS games like Piclings. Nevertheless, their latest release Ionocraft Racing, developed along with Fabrication Games, suffers from the same issues that Piclings did. The game comes with an interesting concept and good ideas, but ultimately falls short in terms of execution.

A steam punk racing game, Ionocraft not only allows players to race around the world; it also lets them build and customize their own steam punk racer. Ultimately, the ideas presented by the game are just that — ideas — and they are overshadowed by trite and drab game play.

Right from the get-go, Ionocraft pushes players into a steampunk world. The default controls are easy enough, with a button for throttle and two others for moving left and right. Easy to play, users can also tilt and use an analog slider controls to steer; both of which feel sensitive at first but actually handle extremely well.

The race is pretty straight forward, consisting of wide, simple turns and a few obstacles. Unfortunately, the levels do not really progress much beyond this and feel rather uninspired. Yes, as players unlock new race tracks, they tend to have more obstacles, ramps, and even speed boosters at check points, but nothing really stands out as truly impressive. Moreover, most everything tends to have the same old world-English type of look to it. Other than the Ionocraft itself, it doesn’t feel too terribly “steam punky,” aside from a few gear-shaped check points.

Similar VehiclesIn terms of the racing itself, the only other mechanic of note is that the Ionocraft has an armor (health) rating, which is reduced when users collide with anything. That said, there isn’t much of a concern for dying as the tracks just aren’t that difficult. If anything, trying to avoid damage does work as an incentive to earn a higher score and profit from each level (which can be exchanged for better parts).

This is where Ionocraft Racing begins to pick up steam (no pun intended). As players race, they earn more cash for performing well and will also unlock new steam punk parts for their craft. Once out of a race, users can then purchase parts and place them onto their Ionocraft to augment its performance in terms of speed, armor, acceleration, steering, and so on. What is truly interesting, however, is that depending on where users place the objects, they can change their vehicles’ center of gravity, affecting its performance for better or for worse.

While this is such an interesting idea, the implementation feels limited. The crafts all host the same, cylindrical shape, and other than center of gravity, nothing else really feels affected. In the end, it feels like little more than placing objects in limited inventory slots.

MedalsOther than this, the play gets rather boring fairly quickly. Not only do most of the levels feel the same, but there isn’t much of a natural progression. Players must earn a minimum of a bronze medal (bronze, silver, and gold medals are all earned based on time) in order to unlock the successive level. However, even with driving perfectly, players will not always get the minimum time required to progress, forcing them to repeat past levels in order to earn enough coins to upgrade their vehicle.

It’s also worth noting that there is no real feeling of competitiveness in any of the races. Remember the first race alone? They’re all like this, and consist only of racing against one’s own best time as well as those on Game Center leaderboards (there are also unlockable achievements). Unfortunately, for a racing game, the lack of opponents takes some of the thrill away. Users aren’t really beating anyone and with new games like Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing that have a synchronous multiplayer mode, games like Ionocraft Racing just can’t really compare.

Overall, Ionocraft Racing has some great concepts, and some potential, but it is lost in mediocre gameplay. Everything is repetitive and devoid of any real skill-based challenge. Furthermore, the forced repetition of perfectly executed races, just to upgrade and meet an imbalanced speed requirement is frustrating. In short, Ionocraft Racing still needs a bit of tinkering in its proverbial garage.