Take to the text-based streets in Machine Zone’s Race Or Die 2

Race Or Die 2 is the latest title from prolific iOS developer Machine Zone (formerly Addmired, Inc.) and another in the long line of text-based role-playing games on the platform. This particular title, available now from the App Store for free, is themed around street racing, though in execution the game is fundamentally identical to the developer’s other offerings.

In Race Or Die 2, players take on the role of a rookie street racer aiming to rise their way up the ranks and take on the world. This is accomplished through a combination of doing “jobs,” which provide experience, money and occasionally special items; racing other players; and purchasing items to provide an income or improve the player character’s abilities.

In practice, everything in Race Or Die 2 is accomplished by tapping a button to expend one of the game’s various energy pools. Performing jobs is a simple matter of spending fuel by repeatedly tapping the “Run Job” button; racing other players simply involves tapping the “Race” button and then immediately seeing the result, calculated by comparing the two drivers’ “attack” and “defense” statistics. Players may also use “Burn” abilities unlocked over the course of the game in order to injure other players. It’s worth noting that at no point do players actually have to control a vehicle and actively race another player — everything is handled as an abstract role-playing game-style battle.

The game monetizes through the sale of its premium “Respect” currency, which may be used to heal, restore energy, apply boosters, purchase special abilities or acquire “megaphones” with which messages may be posted to the game’s global chat facility. Thanks to the wide variety of premium items on offer, Machine Zone’s previous titles have consistently been some of the highest-grossing titles on the App Store, with each enjoying a very long tail of up to two years and counting in some cases.

Long tail or not, however, the game does little to disguise the fact that it is simply a reskin of Machine Zone’s other offerings with a few key words and graphics changed here and there. Play Race Or Die 2 immediately after the company’s recent iMob II, for example, and it’s clear that little to no thought has gone into making the two games unique experiences outside of changing their audio-visual aesthetic and thematic content slightly. In terms of gameplay, they are completely identical.

Speaking with TechCrunch earlier this year, Machine Zone CEO Gabe Leydon attributed the success of his company’s games to the fact that they were built on the principles of social networks, with the “game” part being wrapped around this social core later. This means the game includes a variety of ways in which players can “interact” with one another, ranging from global chat to profile comments, private chatrooms and custom “teams.”

This social-centric approach is clearly working for the company in a business sense, but it doesn’t make for the most interesting, compelling games. Neither does it make for the most “newbie-friendly” titles — despite a brief tutorial, the main screens of all Machine Zone’s games are flooded with notifications and badges, and events occurring in the background frequently cause the device to vibrate with no explanation.

While the core gameplay is extremely simple, the crowded, complex-looking main screen may well be enough to deter newcomers from delving into the game too deeply. Meanwhile, the lack of traditional “racing” gameplay — or indeed any interactivity beyond clicking menu options and buttons — will frustrate those who read the App Store description which promises “the ultimate online racing game.”

Race Or Die 2 is likely to enjoy a healthy degree of success on the App Store if its predecessors are anything to go by. Its cloning of the developer’s own games, however, is hard to ignore. Text-based role-playing games have not evolved particularly significantly since titles like Mafia Wars and its numerous imitators, and this title will do little to change the opinion of those who are already “done” with the genre.

Race Or Die 2 is currently No. 5 in Top Free Apps, No. 26 in Top Grossing Apps, No. 4 in Top Free Games and No. 23 in Top Grossing Games. Follow its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.