Let's clear the air: clean lines and futuristic stylings aside, Pixelbite GamesRepulze [$0.99] shares little in common with Wipeout. One is an iOS racer that costs less than a dollar, the other is one of Sony's most popular and enduring racing franchises. That's not to discount Repulze, though -- it's from the same team that developed the excellent Reckless Racing 2 [$1.99]. Whereas RR2 included drifting mechanics and a dynamic difficulty system, Repulze is comparatively stripped down: it only does one thing, but it does it really well.

The game's most obvious feature is its visual design. The tracks and hovercraft all fit squarely in sci-fi's artistic wheelhouse, but the vibrant colors and sharp lines look nice on a big iPad screen. One of my favorite hovercraft, for example, is the Yugana SB-23, the one that looks most like a podracer from The Phantom Menace. I like the way it handles, of course, but I also like the the way its hydraulics pulse up and down as I bank left and right. Each vehicle is full of small visual touches that set it apart from the rest, and Pixelbite's attention to detail permeates the entire game. Even the menus look nice.

Repulze isn't a racing game as much as it is a time-trial game -- there are no other vehicles competing for first place against you. There's an online leaderboard and a few time-based challenges, but the game is mostly about matching each track with the appropriate vehicle and mastering its twists and turns, learning where to bank to the outside and where to take the inside lap to transition into a straightaway or a loop. You might want a heavier, Buffalo-class racer for the curvy Shore Line, but the smaller, speedier Nousagi RS-55 will allow you to squeeze through the tight tunnels of Neon Hill more effectively.

While there's nothing flashy about the tracks -- you won't be shot out of a cannon or racing through a volcano, Mario Kart-style -- each one feels engaging and well-plotted. Crazy, hairpin curves are used judiciously, and none of the tracks feel impossible to navigate. On the contrary, each curve feels fine-tuned to compliment the controls, creating a nice sense of tension and drama: just as your hovercraft feels like it's going to careen into a retaining wall, the curve flattens out, giving you a short respite to plot your next maneuver.

Speaking of controls, Repulze features the standard touch and tilt varieties, with sensitivity options for both. I could never get the tilt controls tuned to my liking, even for best-handling vehicles, but the touch controls work well. Virtual left and right buttons govern your lateral movement, and your hovercraft of choice will accelerate automatically. Pixelbite were smart to streamline all but the most crucial player inputs: your hands never get in the way of the screen, which keeps the control scheme simple and the action fast-paced.

Each track is littered with red and green, slalom-like gates. Passing through three in a row will give you a short burst of speed; passing through the wrong gate will sap your momentum, which not only hurts your time, but breaks any rhythm you might have had. It's not a particularly complex mechanic, but Repulze is just fast enough that it creates a nice risk -- having your vehicle stall out is disheartening, but chaining boosts together is empowering and fun.

Learning the layout of each track and using your speed boosts effectively (which, in my experience, is as often as possible) will be crucial if you hope to complete each track's challenges. Across the board, Repulze's tracks offer the right mix of straightforward navigation and using the game's polarity mechanic to boost your speed at opportune times.

There are no in-app purchases, but Repulze does come with a standard suite of unlockables and a level-up system. At the beginning of the game, vehicles, color schemes, and tracks are gated off and must be unlocked by gaining experience and completing challenges. Players will accrue experience points every time they race, so even the worst players will unlock new content at a steady clip. This type of design is somewhat annoying, but Repulze makes it unobtrusive enough that it never really hampers progress.

Given its speed and structure,  Repulze reminds me most of Trackmania -- short, digestible races designed to trigger the just-one-more-try mechanisms in your brain. With friends around, it actually makes for a great impromptu pass-and-play local multiplayer game -- the tracks are short enough to keep everyone involved while fostering friendly competition.

Repulze is a pared-down, focused game, with very few bells, whistles, or accoutrements to jazz up the basic racing.  This sparseness is bolstered by Repulze's great sense of speed and track design -- the core experience is fun enough to support the repetitive nature of the time-trial. Repulze is refreshing in its straightforwardness and execution, preferring to be excellent at one simple thing -- visually and mechanically -- than mediocre at several.

TouchArcade Rating

  • terryterryd

    Like Jet Car Stunts, then?

  • Furtin

    Its absolutely missing competitors on the tracks. 4,5 stars for a game that misses the point of racing. Yes, it looks cool and you could argue that one plays for the leaderboard. But at the end of the day you want to be racing against competitors. Either on- or offline. Thats what makes wipeout better than just good. End of story.

    • Cheeseball

      The point of racing is to determine how fast you can get from one point to another. Argument being: beating times on the leaderboard.

      Anyways, this is just phase one of the game. Future updates may contain competitors.

      • Furtin

        Yeah, because beating times on the leaderboard is thrilling for what, two days? Whilst racing against competitors is longer lasting. Mario Kart, NFS, WipEout, etc. where would those games be, if you only race for the leaderboard?

      • Cheeseball

        They would still be racing (e.g. racing against the clock) games.

        You do realize that even with active opponents the main goal is to still get the fastest time possible? It's just that with opponents, they would act as another obstacle aside from the course/circuit itself.

      • MidianGTX

        Mario Kart Wii has you racing opponents and it sucks. Trackmania had you beating times and it owned. You may have the traditional aspects of racing nailed, but they're not rules set in stone.

        I'd rather see TM on iOS though.

      • failrunner

        Mariokart wii kicked ass and trackmania is a piece of crap!

      • MidianGTX

        I only take gaming advice from people I consider to be gamers 😉

    • Doctorossi

      "Misses the point of racing"?!

      It sounds to me like your definition of 'racing' misses the point of racing.

    • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

      I do not agree. I've played Wipeout religiously - it's all about beating the clock by knowing the track. Combat is fun and sometimes rewarding, but combat is not what makes your heart race and your palms sweat.

  • swarmster

    I'm liking the game, but - and this may come down to needing more practice - I'm finding it hard to come to grips with the auto-steering. To the point where I'm never quite sure if a turn is 'severe enough' that I have to steer into it. I wish there was a slider to reduce the effect or turn it off, but maybe I'll get used to it eventually.

  • ikee13

    The game looks AMAZING... I WISH I COULD AFFORD IT! 🙁

    • http://www.facebook.com/reberhardt Rob Eberhardt

      you trolling, bro?

  • Out5poken

    How does this game compare to Flashout 3D?

  • genericeric

    Looks a lot like Axl. Has anyone played both? I'd like to know how control compares.

  • failrunner

    Stop trying to defend this game. It looks great but is ultimately boring as hell. The end. People want to race other racers! Not numbers! I never look at leaderboards because they mean nothing to me! You can pull it apart and examine it all you want but the fact is that this game is like watching grass grow! It has great graphics which seems to be the thing that these developers care more about then gameplay. Graphics are only more important then gameplay if you are a stupid ass graphics whore!

Repulze Reviewed by Joseph Leray on . Rating: 4.5