Horror Racing is a hectic arcade racing game where you outrace and outgun monster opponents on your way to the finish line. It’s a perfect example that racing games for the iPhone don’t have to have awkward controls that depend on the device’s accelerometer. The graphics are rough and grungy, but that’s pretty much to be expected with this particular theme. Don’t let the title worry you, the “horror” is at a PG level. Think “Mad Max” meets “Monster’s Inc.” With missiles, speed boosts, and plenty of ramps, Horror Racing is a lot of fun and really easy to get into.
The controls for Horror Racing are what make it really stand out. Once you open a race, there is a wheel located on the right side of the screen. Touching the wheel causes you to accelerate and moving your thumb clockwise/counterclockwise makes you turn. This does mean you have to swipe fast to make it around tight corners, but I still think it’s much more comfortable then bothering with accelerometer controls. Still, I’d have preferred an option to change the sensitivity of the “wheel.” After about 5 races I got the hang of things, but getting stuck on a wall is still a serious frustration. As you race, you’ll discover that you can pick up various weapons and health packs as you go. To use a weapon, just touch it’s corresponding icon on the middle/bottom left of the screen. Speed boosts are located throughout the tracks and can be activated simply by running over them.
Championship is the “career mode,” the meat of the game. Skirmish is a single race, where you pick the track you want to play. That leaves Quick Race, which is a random track for when you just want to play and don’t care about the details. Races are viewed from an isometric perspective and unfortunately there is no zoom button. At the top left of the screen you’ll find a mini map that will show you exactly where you and your rivals are located. In addition to all that, there is also a health bar, a score counter, and place/lap information located at the top. Backgrounds are painfully similar throughout the game. The routes do differ per track, but it’s always just a lot of grungy gray and red tones with uninspired fences and walls stopping you from going off the track. I was expecting to be able to go into dracula’s castle or around a volcano or something in a horror racing game, so that was a small disappointment. The sound effects here are good, but the background music is really uneven. Half the time the music is great, but the other half of the time it just sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. More horrific sounding then actually horror themed.
So the controls take some getting used to, and the overall look is messy and repetitive. The fighting action, however, is really good. Plenty of weapons and health packs are scattered throughout the levels. You can fire machine guns and missiles or drop mines to destroy your fellow racers. Vehicles show damage after losing health and will eventually blow up, but don’t think they’re gone for good! Your enemies will respawn after about 3 seconds and continue the race!
The best part about Horror Racing is the vehicle upgrades at the shop. Each vehicle starts with different stats like engine power and armor strength. As you win races in the “championship” races, you’ll get prize money and unlock new parts to buy at the shop. These parts will upgrade your stats, allowing you to take more punishment, deal more damage, and drive faster. Don’t think they’re optional! The stages get harder and harder and once you get far enough into the championship, those upgrades will be crucial.
If you want some arcade action, Horror Racing will keep you entertained. With all the upgradable vehicles and unlockable levels, there’s plenty of replay value here. I’m not a fan of the theme and I find it to be an eyesore, but the game itself is really fun. Just don’t think of it as just a mere racing sim. Horror Racing is a combat game that just happens to be a racer as well. I would like there to be a few extra options like iPod support, online best times, and more variety in the levels, but hopefully those things will be added in a later update