Put the pedal to the metal in these games for iOS

This week's collection of apps are all racing games including a sequel to a popular franchise, a go-cart simulator that's fun and unique, and a well-polished remote-control-like racer that's tough to put down.

iPhone
CNET

Ever since I was a kid I've had a fascination with racing. My father took me to motorcycle GP races at the age of 4 and we went every year for most of my young life. The big-name racers of the day, the roar of the engines, and the smell of formula fuel as they sped around the track all added to the fun and excitement for the young version of me.

These days I'm not much of a spectator racing fan, but if a new racing game comes out (really on any platform), I somehow automatically become interested. A big racing game release today on iOS got me looking for more fun driving games -- and while I know they're not for everybody -- if you like to "go fast," these games are for you.

This week's collection of iOS apps is all about racing. The first lets you upgrade cars and compete on numerous tracks with a 3D top-down view. The second challenges you to compete, driving old-school go-carts around tracks and has a great overall feel. The third is a well-polished sequel that many racing game fans will probably automatically download.

Mini Motor Racing
In the early part of the race it can be rough as you jockey for position. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Mini Motor Racing (99 cents) is a game I've been playing since its release in December of last year that keeps me coming back for more with tight controls, car upgrades, and great racing action. A recent update on June 7 added online multiplayer, a feature I've been wanting since I first downloaded the game.

You start with four vehicles to choose from, each with their own different attributes, body types, and handling, but you'll unlock more as you win races. The default control system is solid, with a steering wheel on the left and a nitro button on the right (gas is automatic), but there are more control setups in the options to suit your playing style. For quick customizations to your selected car, you can touch a paint button to quickly switch to a paint job you like, but you'll need to earn money while racing if you want to make serious upgrades.

On the racetrack, you'll compete with three AI-controlled racers. As you slide around corners, you can hit the nitro button for an extra boost, but be careful to have plenty of room (like long straightaways) or it might do more harm than good. You'll also be able to grab extra nitros and more cash on the track as you race, so don't worry too much about wasting nitros. The action in Mini Motor racing is fantastic, with excellent physics, great-looking 3D models and shadows, and tons of challenge as you find the best line around each track.

When the race is over, you'll earn cash you can use for upgrades to add to your top speed, acceleration, handling, and nitro. It's a great system because you can pick a favorite car style then upgrade it to take you through the early part of the game.

The only issue I have with Mini Motor Racing is the online multiplayer. I've had success playing with local players on the same Wi-Fi network and in Bluetooth range, but when I try to play online it's sometimes tough to match up with other players. I'm not sure if it's the time of day (mostly international players?) or a problem with the game itself, but online multiplayer is spotty at best in my experience.

If you like racing games that let you upgrade your car and offer plenty of new challenges, Mini Motor Racing is a great option. With the recent update, it's added a ton of new content, so this game is definitely worth your money.

Go Karting Outdoor
What makes this game fun might be more about nostalgia, but I still like the simulation feel. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Go Karting Outdoor (Free, so you can try it first. 99 cents for the full game) doesn't have the polish of the other games in this collection, but it offers a unique racing style that's sure to appeal to racing fans who want realism (and a bit of nostalgia).

You're not going to find upgrades and flashy car models here; Go Karting Outdoor tries to make it feel like you're actually racing go-carts around a track, and everything from the sounds and the feel of the car stay true to the experience of go-cart racing.

You don't get many customization options, either. You can only pick the color of your cart and choose between the 270cc easier handling cart or the faster 390cc, which requires more skill to control. The 270cc is the default, and I definitely recommend running through a few races before you upgrade to the more powerful go-cart.

Where this game shines is how it closely resembles actual go-cart racing. The sound of the engine has that telltale lawnmowerlike rumble and the steering feels muddy as you brake hard for sharp hairpins. In other racing games the steering would be unacceptable, but when you know you're racing a go-cart, it feels just right.

Overall, Go Karting Outdoor may not be for everybody because it's a very stylistic experience, but if you raced go-carts as a kid or want to try something different than the usual fare, check out this game.

Asphalt 7: Heat
The graphics in this game are incredibly smooth, and so is the racing. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Asphalt 7: Heat (99 cents for a limited time) is the latest in Gameloft's popular arcade racing franchise and it doesn't disappoint, with more than 60 cars to race and tons of tracks to make your way to the top.

Where Go Karting Outdoor runs on a minimum of polish, Asphalt 7 has all the bells and whistles. To start off, you get 60 licensed cars from manufacturers all over the world including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and several others, all intricately detailed and great-looking on the Retina display. There are six different game modes in which you'll be challenged to race in 15 different leagues for a total of 150 different races. Tracks are based in real cities around the world including locations like Paris, London, and Miami (with all the appropriate landmarks). You also have achievements (called Goals, in this game) for everything from finishing your first race to completing a league (and everything in between).

The control system is just like the others from this franchise. The default control mode has you tilting to steer with the gas always on, and you have a button on the lower right to get a nitro boost. Like Mini Motor Racing, you also have pickups around the track for both cash and nitro, so don't worry too much about overusing your speed boost.

In between races, you'll be able to upgrade your cars with cash earned while racing. There is also a tiered racing system that requires you to earn stars in order to unlock tiers of cars and upgrades. Upgrades include top speed, acceleration, nitro efficacy, handling, and more. Stars and cash don't come easy, so if you really want to advance in Asphalt 7: Heat, you're going to have to commit to competing in a lot of races.

You also have the option to race against up to five friends on a local network or online. In this latest addition to the franchise, multiplayer has been fleshed out a bit more, with a full stat-tracking system so you can compare your stats with your friends. In my testing, I was able to get online immediately and had a smooth racing experience, but that could be because the game is so new.

Lastly, like many modern games for iOS, you also have the option to buy your way to the top (a practice I don't agree with). In app purchase lets you buy both stars and cash, so if you're willing to spend the money, you can upgrade that way (though it doesn't seem like it would be as much fun).

Overall Asphalt 7: Heat is another solid arcade racing game from the popular franchise with enough new content to make it a worthy purchase (especially at 99 cents). If you like arcade racing or any of the other titles in this series, you should check out this game.

 

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