One of the very first iPhone jailbreak games I played was Raging Thunder [App Store], a 3D racer from Polarbit. It was rough around the edges, sported a rather crude menu interface, and was perhaps the most impressive iPhone game available at the time. That was months ago, and since then the iTunes App Store and iPhone 2.0 have arrived, making iPhone gaming "official." And thanks to Polarbit's recent App Store release, Raging Thunder is now official as well.
Happily, the new Raging Thunder is far more polished than the the original, jailbreak incarnation.
Like the recently released Asphalt 4, Raging Thunder is more of an arcade racer than a racing simulator such as Gran Turismo. The focus here is on "speed, accessibility and fun" as opposed to real world physics. Because of this, steering the vehicle (which can be handled via tilt or touch control) and keeping away from walls and opponents is rather easy--perhaps a little too easy.
Raging Thunder offers several modes of play. In Quick Race, the player is thrown into a car and onto the track with no options to be selected. Arcade mode lets the driver pick a vehicle and places it at the start of the first track for a track-to-track race that simpy requires that the driver make every checkpoint under the clock. Championship mode has the player create a profile and allows track-to-track progression based on finish-line ranking. In Championship mode, cash icons can be collected on the tracks and used to purchase vehicle upgrades. Time Attack mode challenges the driver to achieve the fastest track-time on any track unlocked in Championship Mode. And finally, Multiplayer mode allows up to four players to compete on the same WiFi network. In Multiplayer mode, one player hosts the game while the others join.
There are 10 tracks in all and in any play mode tracks are spotted with both skull and lightning bolt icons. Lightning bolts increase the level of the driver's boost bar which, when tapped, delivers a temporary speed boost. Skulls are to be avoided, as contact with a skull drains the driver's boost bar or, if empty, slows the vehicle to a crawl for five seconds. There is also a tackle bar that glows when an opponent is near. Pressing it causes the driver's vehicle to smash into the close-proximity opponent, sending him flying.
Unlike the early, jailbreak incarnation of Raging Thunder, the App Store release runs only in landscape mode.
Raging Thunder is a fun racer that provides a particularly satisfying sense of speed, magnified by the blur / rushing wind visual effects that present themselves at high speeds. The graphics are impressive (especially given that the game is only a 2.8MB install) and the framerate is solid. As mentioned earlier, the vehicle can be kept on the road with particular ease, especially in tilt mode. This diminishes the game's challenge to some degree as compared to certain other iPhone racers. While GTS World Racing offers superior control (likely the best of any iPhone racer), Raging Thunder's over-simplified controls are preferable to Asphalt 4's more difficult control system.
The v1.0.0 release suffers from an unfortunate audio bug (that can be observed in our demo video) in which, after completing a track or going to the menu mid-game, the sound cuts out entirely, only to return after a few laps. This will surely be addressed in a near-term update, however.
If arcade racers are your thing--especially if you find the typical iPhone racer difficult to control--Raging Thunder might be worth a look.