Fancy yourself a neo-Victorian inventor of sorts, a steampunk maker, maybe? Do you love to get your hands on all kinds of lovely brass bits and pieces? Heck, even if you just like to build cool stuff, you'll have fun playing with Ionocraft Racing [$1.99 / HD], a time-trial racer with a few problems but a lot of potential.
I'll admit, my first impression of the game wasn't good. With no A.I. competitors or multiplayer, I was just racing myself on a lap around the track. The vehicle handling seemed a little stiff, and I couldn't go very fast. But then I headed into the garage and found what looked to be a tinkerer's dream.
Don't get me wrong--I'd definitely prefer to take my ionocraft out against other racers and see how she handles. But once my focus changed from "let's get around this track as quickly as possible" to "I wonder if this kickin' booster will shave a few seconds off my best time?," I got hooked. Getting a good time in one of the game's 13 tracks is great, but I prefer the rewards: more parts for my beast of a vehicle, and currency with which to buy them.
The vehicles in Ionocraft Racing have five stats: Mass, Speed, Control, Armor and Boost. But those don't tell the whole story. The different parts you can graft to your ionocraft affects its stats, and their positioning affects your performance. Front-load all your steering, and you'll be flipping your craft around and every turn. Shove it all into the back instead, and you'll corner like a tank.
The tracks you'll be riding on are well-designed to give you a lot of variety. Some have sharp corners to worry about, others are mostly smooth edges and straightaways, so if you want great times you'll need to customize your craft to the track. The tracks aren't terribly interesting to look at--most have nothing but brown and brass roads, walls and surroundings as far as the eye can see--but they'll give you plenty of chances to reach insane speeds or smash your craft to bits.
The controls feel quite different depending on how you've customized your ionocraft, but the input methods are sound. One on-screen button controls the throttle, and you've got your choice of on-screen left and right buttons, tilt controls or an odd slider method for steering. Although you'll only be racing against yourself, you can try for bronze, gold or silver medals on each track--the gold times are quite a challenge--and compete on Game Center leaderboards. There are also 8 achievements to collect.
Aside from the lack of multiplayer or A.I., this game has room for improvement. I ran into severe performance issues on a couple tracks, seriously limiting my ability to race on them. I also ran out of new parts much too quickly. The customization is the coolest part of this game, so Fabrication Games should have gone nuts with it. The garage could use a few tweaks as well - the ability to save configurations would go a long way. Hopefully we'll see an update that beefs this game up a bit, but in the meantime Ionocraft Racing is a fun time-trial racer with a lot of potential. If you pick it up, stop by our forums to compare builds.