Fish Labs' long awaited rally racer that we first heard of back in August has finally arrived on the App Store. Originally a J2ME game released in 2008 that received rave reviews from mobile gaming sites, Rally Master Pro 3D [App Store] for the iPhone is completely remastered with four times the polygon count of the original with all kinds of additional visual effects.
The extra once-over Fish Labs gave Rally Master Pro 3D is amazingly apparent from your first launch of the game. It looks absolutely gorgeous and can easily stand next to the other graphical marvels of the App Store. Your car is one of the best looking car models I've seen on the platform, the weather effects look excellent, the draw distance is far, and pop-in of scenery is minimal. From a technical standpoint, Rally Master Pro 3D is phenomenal.
The game is controlled similar to other racing games. Your steer your car either by tilting your phone, using an analog wheel, or digital buttons to turn right or left. Acceleration can either be handled automatically or via a button, and there is a button for braking. I've found myself preferring the buttons to steer right and left, which seems a little odd as tilt controls have worked so well with other games. Both tilting and using the analog wheel somehow feel significantly less precise than using the digital controls.
When you're doing well, racing through the countryside in Rally Master Pro 3D feels great. As a rally game, you are competing against the clock rather than other racers, and like other rally games, turns are called out and the tracks are mostly easy to navigate with plenty of turns and jumps. Where things start to go pear shaped is when your tires slip off the road, which is where the car damage system comes in.
If you don't maintain a perfect racing line, your car slows significantly whenever you even slightly veer off the road. On top of that, a bar showing your car's current durability is displayed on the top left corner of the screen. In addition to being slowed when you go off road, your car takes constant damage and must be repaired between races.
When I first noticed my car taking damage for sliding off the edge of the track through turns, I suspected that there was going to be some really slick multitouch enabled mini game where you used various gestures to repair your car or some other clever way to play as a member of your pit crew. Instead, you're offered two options-- You can either have the game repair automatically to repair some lost durability, or assist the pit crew by playing timing based mini games to do things like refill your tire pressure or tighten the lug nuts of your wheels to repair much more.
What could have been a neat gameplay mechanic similar to how you hot wire cars in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the DS instead is accomplished by just pressing a virtual button on screen. When you're refilling your tires you hold a button to add or release air in to your tires and must guess the correct duration to get the pressure gauge within the desired range. When tightening lug nuts, you simply tap a button when a series of lines match up inside of a bar similar to how you putt in most golfing games.
What could have been a great opportunity to inject some mini games that suit the unique controls of the iPhone instead just come off as shallow and contrived. The vehicle durability and repair system really seem to be the fly in the ointment of an otherwise phenomenal iPhone game.
At the end of the day, Rally Master Pro 3D is still worth checking out. It's a fun racing game with great graphics. Once you eventually get good enough at the game your car doesn't take very much damage, and you can begin to mostly ignore the durability system. There is a ton to unlock by playing through the three difficulties of career mode, each with a rally course set up over 9 individual legs. Times are tracked locally as well as online, creating a sizable amount of replay value if you enjoy competing in online leaderboards.
App Store Link: Rally Master Pro 3D, $6.99