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Turbo Grannies puts Grandma in the driver's seat

The game, currently a big hit in Sweden, may be the first one that lets you crash an electric scooter and not feel bad about it.

No grandmothers were harmed in the making of this blog post. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

There's no doubt electric scooters offer increased mobility to the elderly, but the 99-cent iOS/Android game Turbo Grannies takes that concept to an absurd level.

In Turbo Grannies, the main protagonist is a geriatric hell-bent on going like the wind through side-scrolling levels--in a powered three-wheeled scooter. With unlimited lives, gone are the days when Grandma needed to say, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Players can ride through three areas (mountain, suburbia, and desert) that have some layout differences, but the concept is essentially the same: get Grandma to the end of the level by successfully jumping over obstacles.

Speed is controlled by pressing your finger on the right side of the screen, while braking/reverse is on the left. Gameplay is easy, but after several levels the jumps become much more challenging. I found myself stuck at one part of a level for 5 or 10 minutes, having to frustratingly restart at a checkpoint since crashing the vehicle is commonplace.

Balance is difficult to maintain in the air, as the game uses your phone's built-in accelerometer to lean the scooter back or forward. Sounds simple, but even after playing for a while the balance controls felt exaggerated and led me to feel irritated.

If there's one thing Turbo Grannies has going for it, it's the sound effects (which, be warned, some will likely find tasteless). There's nothing like going airborne and doing flips with a bobble-headed grandma, only to have a spine-snapping crash and hear an "Ow!" followed up with a splatter that sounds like someone jumping into a vat of lard. Ouch.

Despite Turbo Grannies appearing polished on first glance, the experience is severely lacking. This is quite odd considering the game is a total hit in Sweden (one of the top paid apps), and is optimized for the iPhone 4's Retina display, gyroscope, etc. The real problem is that there are no achievements, power-ups, jump distance bonuses, or other incentives to keep someone truly rolling.

We'll have to put Turbo Grannies back in the retirement home for now.

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