Stock car racer Days of Thunder [App Store] from Freeverse is based on the 1990 film of the same name and places you in the role of main character Cole Trickle (played by Tom Cruise in the film), a hot-shot auto racing rookie seeking to win on the NASCAR curcuit. Other characters from the film are also represented, such as crew chief and mentor Harry Hogge who quips words of advice both during and between races and love interest Dr. Claire Lewicki.
NASCAR tracks are generally oval or triangular in shape and, as such, the game's 12 tracks (across six different circuits) present a relatively simplistic and repetitive tour as compared to street racers such as Fastlane Street Racing, Fast and Furious: Pink Slip, or the like, which is something those unfamiliar with NASCAR racing should be aware of. The goal is, of course, to cross the finish line first, but to truly excel in the game requires a bit more of the driver.
Winning a NASCAR race involves much on-track strategy. In order to save fuel and pit less frequently, drivers seek to ride closely behind another vehicle in a technique known as "drafting" which dramatically reduces the aerodynamic resistance of the rear vehicle. In Days of Thunder, as soon as your car is in the draft zone, a hammer bar on the right side of the screen begins to rise. Once you've drafted long enough, you can "drop the hammer" and receive a boost in speed and invincibility to help push your way to the front of the pack.
In climbing the ladder to first place, quarters get rather tight on the track. You'll do a lot of "paint swapping" as you slam your way through the crowd. Above each car is a damage indicator-- a car can sustain only so many impacts with other vehicles and the wall before theatrically exploding into oblivion. Damage to your own vehicle can be repaired in the pit, but at the price of precious track time.
In each race your charcter has a particular rival that's pointed out at the start of the race. Hunting him down and sending him "to the wall" unlocks new cars (14 in all) to add to your garage. Overall performance in the race, both in placement and on-track carnage, will unlock various achievements including new tracks and even a date with the lovely Dr. Lewicki.
Days of Thunder features accelerometer-based steering with touchscreen control of the accelerator and brake peddals (both either up or down). The game's control mechanics make keeping the car on the track pretty easy. It wasn't long before I was cornering at full throttle / no brake. This makes the main challenge of the game staying in the draft zone until the right moment and balancing your own damage levels (and pit frequency) with that of the other cars on the track while huntinf down your rival.
While the game maintains a solid framerate, it breaks no new ground in the area of iPhone 3D graphics. Though the layouts and backdrop scenery of each track vary, the overall look from track to track is much the same and aren't what one would call a lavish affair. The vehicle graphics are simplistic and don't change to reflect damage taken on during the race until the final explosion.
Being a much bigger fan of street racers than track racers, my first reaction to Days of Thunder was that it was too basic and monotonous for my tastes. As I spent more time with the game, however, I started to enjoy the challenge of knocking out my rival, successuflly drafting, and "swapping paint" with the rest of the pack. Earning achievements along the way and seeing my progress reflected in the race-to-race cut scene dialog turned out to be a nice draw. I think racer fans who enjoy a little destruction derby and who aren't particularly thirsty for groundbreaking visuals might find Days of Thunder a fun way to spend some track time on the iPhone, particularly at its introductory price of $0.99.
See the developer's teaser video:
Days of Thunder keeps its limited time introductory price of $0.99 until Sunday, after which it will be available for its standard price of $4.99.
NOTE: Freeverse has submitted a v1.0.1 update to the App Store that corrects a localization issue non-U.S. users were experiencing.