Nexon entered the social gaming market recently, and on the top of its list is the iPhone title KartRider Rush. Released just over a week ago, the Nexon Mobile title is noting that it has already received around 1 million downloads. It’s a respectable number for one week. But keep in mind that the online version has been played by 160 million people across the globe.
Free to play, KartRider Rush is a go-kart racing game not unlike the older Mario Kart franchise. Boasting its own unique visuals, the game is a bizarrely quirky title whose style is undermined drastically by overly sensitive and temperamental controls. Moreover, much of the original game’s spirit is lost due to multiplayer sessions that can only be done locally.
If you’ve played Mario Kart, then you’ve essentially played KartRider Rush. Players race about a cartoonish track against four other rivals for three laps to win. Along each course, item boxes are scattered about that grant random special abilities to use against opponents.
Each item is about as odd as they are in the Mario predecessor and consist of traps, nitro boosts, banana peels, and forward firing missiles. The quantity of items isn’t terribly high, but there are a few curious, and obnoxious, power-ups of merit. The first would be a space ship that slows down first-place drivers upon activation. However, this pales in comparison to the cruel joke that is the “Flip” power that turns the entire game upside down, reversing all controls. Aside from these, there is one other item of note called the “Water Rocket.” It fires three rockets at the car in front of player. But what makes it interesting is that if it is shot at the user, they have a chance to stop it by tapping all three rockets before they hit.
As a side note, there is a different game mode called “Speed Mode” that turns off all items except for the nitro boosts.
It’s amusing the first time these powers are used. But their fun is quickly lost as the controls are hard enough to handle even without the extra “help.” Karts accelerate automatically with the player only able to slow them down. In order to steer, tilting is used as the default. But the game’s sensitivity is extraordinarily high, making it a significant challenge for new users. Tilting often sends them frustratingly, into walls and hazards (e.g. water hazards).
The idea with turns is to drift, a racing concept we have seen before on iOS with Ridge Racer HD. To do so, players must touch the drift icon during a turn and tilt the iPhone in the opposite direction in order to keep the kart centered (for button steering, there are two drift buttons for either a left or right turn). In theory, it works pretty well. In practice, not so much. Because of the highly sensitive tilt controls, players must first start the turn, then hit the button and turn in the opposite direction, then straighten out the kart at the end. All of this happens relatively quickly. It’s highly likely you’ll accidentally overcompensate.
The good news is that this more advanced skill isn’t all that necessary in the free portion of the game. The initially available tracks are all relatively straight forward and consist of only a few basic turns and obstacles. In order to unlock many of the other characters, karts, and more complex race tracks, players must make in-app purchases called “Bundles” that cost $1.99 (though some are currently on sale for 50% off). However, there are also a few “Quest” unlocks that will become available once the player satisfies certain objectives, such as completing a multiplayer game.
Of all the problems with KartRider Rush, the biggest disappointment is the weak multiplayer aspect. The original KartRider is an MMOG. But with Rush, the only multiplayer mode is local. All that is available to users is the feature to create a local race and have friends connect to it via Bluetooth. The app does let users log into their Facebook account via Facebook Connect as well, but all this really does is allow for the occasional wall posting after a race and basic leaderboards.
In the end, KartRider might be a popular online game, but the current iteration of KartRider Rush isn’t exactly translating as well on iPhone. All the parts are there for a fun game. But without a real multiplayer mode, much of the appeal from the original has been lost. Moreover, the controls are a bit touchy on default. Even with the alternate control schemes, the drifting mechanic is trying.
Considering the following the game already has, it would be surprising if it didn’t do well in the long run. Nexon will hopefully be making future adjustments and additions to ensure that it does.