4 starsReviews

Apple Arcade: ‘Speed Demons’ Review – Shut Up & Drive

Radiangames should be pretty familiar to most TouchArcade readers. The one-man studio is best known for crafting glowing, particle-effects heavy shoot-em-ups like Inferno 2 and JoyJoy that have amassed a dedicated following for their tight controls and chaotic gameplay. Over the years the developer has strayed outside that mold a few times and created a handful of games in other genres as well (block puzzlers, etc.) which were every bit as deceptively simple and fun. Their latest, Speed Demons, finds the prolific developer stepping outside their usual twin-stick genre once again, this time with an auto-running racer. So is it any good? Let’s find out!

Yes, it is good. (Didn’t have to wait long for that, did you?) In Speed Demons you take control of a car racing along a busy highway filled with other cars and trucks that are mostly minding their own business. Your Pedal has been firmly superglued to The Metal, it seems, as you have no control over the acceleration and therefore most of what you’ll be doing is weaving around traffic and hanging on for dear life.

Now, I’m sure you’ve played mobile games like this before. All you’re doing is continuously scrolling forward (which is up, in this case) and just sliding your fingers around to avoid hitting stuff for as long as possible. What makes it stand out from most of the pack are three main things: It’s level-based, it’s premium, and it just feels really nice to play.

Let’s tackle those in order. Most games in this genre tend to be endless, but that’s not the case with Speed Demons. It’s divided into five chapters and a prologue, epilogue, and two appendices. Each chapter is further divided into a number of named sections, and each of those contains 5 or so levels to complete. So while the gameplay itself may not be “endless”, the amount of content sure seems close. In fact, my first play session was close to an hour long, playing through dozens of levels, and I thought I surely must have blown through a third of the game’s content. But no, upon backing out to the menu I realized I wasn’t even finished with the first chapter yet, and I had barely scratched the surface of what the game offers.

As for the levels themselves, they each have a specific goal to complete beyond just avoiding traffic. These range from objectives like bashing a certain number of cars off the road before the time is up to surviving while being hunted by the deadly Enforcers. My two personal favorites, though, are the racing and passing levels. (Both are more or less the same, in that you have to drive past a certain number of red cars before the level ends.) Some levels will also have “modifiers” added to them in an attempt to spice things up even further, like adding a damage bar to your car or boosting the difficulty. All of these different objectives are fun twists on the auto-runner formula, even if they aren’t that different from each other at the end of the day.

The second thing that sets it apart from similar games is the price. It’s… well, free-ish but not free free, ya know? As part of Apple Arcade, you’re getting it as part of the subscription at no extra cost which sure feels like free when you download the game, but upon loading it up–surprise!–it’s actually quite premium. There’s no ad banner at the bottom of the screen, no videos playing after you beat a level, and there’s just one currency instead of six. It’s refreshing, to say the least. The currency is used just for upgrading cars, and you can only buy two upgrade points for each one. Unlike other games in this genre, you won’t be caught in an endless loop of throwing increasing amounts of fun-bucks down an infinite upgrade pit until your eyes dry up and roll onto the floor for your cat to play with.

The third thing setting it apart, as I’ve said, is that it just feels really damn good to play. The visuals are silky smooth (the best Radiangames has ever done, by far), the controls are fluid and responsive, and everything from the speed of the cars to the snappy UI just feels slick as heck. It’s one of the Apple Arcade games I find myself coming back to again and again not just because it’s fun, but because it’s just very satisfying to interact with.

How long I keep coming back is less certain, though, because as fun and compulsive as it is, it’s not a terribly deep game. Each level feels very similar, even as your cars and objectives slightly change and the scenery gets a few new colors here and there. You’re ultimately still driving in a mostly straight line while avoiding traffic for a minute or two in nearly every level. As enjoyable as the game is, I fear there will be a point when I finish my hundredth race and see that I still have dozens upon dozens to go and I just won’t have the energy for it. (Metaphorical energy, that is. Remember, there are no timers here. Premium!)

There’s a reason Radiangames has such a dedicated following around here. It’s because they make really good mobile games, and Speed Demons is no different in that regard. It’s fun and fast, and easily one of the best looking things they’ve ever released. It’s also loaded with content, with lots of cars to unlock and more levels than I can count. Unfortunately, all those shiny cars and levels start to blend together after a while and you might find yourself yearning for something a bit deeper long before you reach the end. I’m having a pretty great time with it, all things considered, but your mileage may vary.


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NOTE: Speed Demons is available exclusively as part of Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service from Apple. Without being a subscriber to Apple Arcade you cannot download and play this game. Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month and does come with a free one month trial, you can learn more about it on Apple’s official website or by visiting our dedicated Apple Arcade forum.