It’s time once again for another port, as Ridge Racer Accelerated comes to the iPad as HD. Developed by Namco, the original iOS version of the game has been on the iPhone for a couple months, but most users will recognize its from PlayStation. However, the new game is average, and even saying that is generous.
An arcade-style racing title, Ridge Racer Accelerated HD is a gutted rendition of its PlayStation counterpart, with just a few game modes. The game controls are awkward at best, and the title lacks the fast-paced feel that ought to come with hairpin turns and super cars. The interesting part is actually that Namco has become yet another major company to make use of paid upgrades within the app.
First and foremost, Ridge Racer Accelerated is an arcade-style game. This means that the game has no story and is just meant to please users for a few minutes at a time. There are, technically, five different modes to play including Time Attack, Time Attack with Game Center integration, Survival, Duel, and Arcade.
After choosing a track and car, users are whisked off to a quick race against computer-controlled opponents. But the winning is not all that gratifying. And without a career mode to offer successive races — and by extension a form of progression — there is no real sense of accomplishment or reward. At least in a real arcade, players got to sit in a quasi-simulated race car and drive.
Ridge Racer Accelerated also suffers from a lack of tension and the fast-paced feel that comes with most racers involving super cars. Racing games need to make the player feel like the player is actually going 150 mph with cars all around them where the slightest error can cause a wreck. That’s not the case here.
The two Time Attack modes are what you might expect. The user races alone, trying to beat their fastest time. The one with Game Center integration incorporates a leaderboard system for all players. But sadly, this is the only form of multiplayer action that the game offers.
Duel is a bit dull. It’s nothing more than a one-on-one race with a single computer. Survival, on the other hand, is more interesting. It’s a race where the last place car is eliminated each lap until only one remains. Unfortunately, there are only three cars.
While the game modes are drab, this pales in comparison to the control the player has. The game’s core mechanic is about drifting, which is basically power sliding the car around a turn. As this is done, nitrous is built up that can be later used as a speed boost. Curiously enough, the control problem does not stem from the iPad itself, but the actual game.
The cars feel like they drift unnaturally, jerking themselves in and out of drifts, even when the brakes are not hit. Moreover, it is extraordinarily easy to overcompensate on a turn which, more often than not, leaves the player facing the wrong direction. To make matters worse, many courses are fairly narrow and there is no reverse button! This means, in order to turn back to the right direction, players must run themselves into a wall for about 10 seconds until they get reoriented.
The iPad controls actually work well, and Namco gives players a number of control options. Users can steer with tilting, simple buttons, or even a virtual analog stick. Players can also adjust the sensitivity of the controls (something more games ought to have the option for) and even play with the accelerating and braking setup.
On the monetization front, Ridge Racer Accelerated HD does something a little different than its iPhone predecessor. Like some of our past reviewed games (e.g. Sacred Odyssey or The Stroke of Midnight), the game is free to download. However, the free rendition is just a trial mode that contains only one track, one car, and the Game Center integrated Time Attack mode. To unlock everything else, the user must purchase the full version for $8.99.
This is an increasingly popular method of selling iOS games among bigger developers. The real trick, however, is giving the user enough free content to get them hooked, while still making sure to not give them so much that they don’t need the rest of the game.
A word of warning though. For most of the games we’ve seen with this free-to-download or trial method, user ratings have dropped, even if it was a good game. Users don’t often read many of the app descriptions and tend to get upset when they learn something isn’t actually free.
Overall, Ridge Racer Accelerated HD is mediocre at best. The cars just handle poorly, and despite the decent use of touch and tilt controls, the game play itself is both awkward and frustrating. Coupled with a lack of tension or even the feeling of moving at ridiculous speeds, this Ridge Racer port just doesn’t have the appeal that the PlayStation version had.