Ridge Racer was a blast in 1993 when it made its debut in the arcades (those were places where giant cabinets ruled the earth and gamers' college funds). Many racers up to that point that weren't made by Sega of America truly weren't worth a damn. Sega had dominated the market and had recently introduced a high profile game called Daytona USA. When Namco brought its beauty into the ring it stood out like a wonderful sore thumb and the series that is Ridge Racer never looked back from there.
Fast forward years later and the series has worn its welcome a bit having been overshadowed by such hits as Forza and Gran Turismo. Namco, to their credit, has been true to its series, keeping it in an arcade format where it's more fun to have a racing game in short burst than it is for a racing game to become an RPG.
So what does that have to do with anything? Well, if you're still reading this review you've probably figured out that Namco has taken their popular racing sim and converted it to the iPad. While there's no doubt that the iPad is a powerful portable system for gaming, most games come up short in the transition to the medium. Namco did a bit of tweaking with the arcade sim to make it work and this is what the review is all about.
So read on, dear gamers.
Ridge Racer Accelerated HD for the iPad is impressive... if you can get the control scheme down. That's the biggest obstacle in the game, as the rest pretty much falls into place once that hurdle is cleared. Many games translated to the iPad always seem to have huge issues determining how control is going to be provided to the gamer. For example, Rockstar Games' GTA Chinatown Wars has issues that didn't exist on the DS version of the game. Namely, the driving scenes in GTA were nothing short of horrendous. Getting a car to start in GTA took more finger power than brain power. I remember watching Steven McGehee curse the poor iPad trying to get his car to start. Turn on car, press down on the brake, push the accelerator, go get coffee, make dinner, come back and pray that it worked. Those aren't exactly the steps it took, but you get the idea. Sometimes developers look at the iPad and think 'way' too hard about how to be creative when it comes to translating games over to the format. I realize that no one wants to simply do a port because idiots like me will yell, "Hey, it's a straight port! How lazy can you get?", but at the same time we're more keen to rip up a title for not being playable at all. I digress, getting back to Ridge Racer Accelerated HD's controls. The controls are very well thought out and simple. On the screen you get directional pad buttons on the left. On the right you get your brake and acceleration. They fit comfortably on the screen in the right areas and, more importantly, don't get in the way of game (the iPhone is dreadful at doing that).
So where does the problem lie? Well, the issue with the controls in this game reside in the sensitivity of them. If you're speeding around a corner (sharp or otherwise) and you press left on the directional pad too long you'll start drifting. Your instinct as a drifter is to steady the drift, but by doing so you'll start putting your car a little out of control. Then from that point on you'll panic and push the right directional pad to try and straighten out the situation, but eventually you'll either nearly spin out of control or slam into a wall. After about a day with this game I was dead set on calling it bad controls and moving on to Ms. Pac-Man. That would have been a grave mistake on my part. After thinking it through a bit, eating some cherry pie (no seriously), drinking some lovely orange juice and pineapple juice (I like citrus, leave me alone) and just relaxing a bit, I finally got it. Much like Namco Bandai's decision on simplifying the controls I needed simply my methods of controlling the vehicle. Don't over turn, don't press the directional pad too long and most of all don't go back/forth between right/left when things start getting bad. Once I trained myself to do such a thing what I found was one of the smoothest racers on the iPad. Before I knew it I was drifting through turns, accelerating like a bat out of hell and pretty much doing what God intended; enjoying myself.
So relax when you're trying this out and you'll find a lot of enjoyment. if you have issues with the controls there is a good possibility you are over-thinking it all and panicking. The controls are difficult to get use to, but once you do there will be a fun game waiting.
Anyway, as for the rest of the game it's not too difficult to see why $8.99 is worth the price of admission. You get a shit ton of cars with this game. Again, it's not Gran Turismo where you get to customize it, put a sticker on it that says, "If you're not first, you're last", none of that special stuff is included. You simply get a lovely list of cars to choose from (just like in the arcades) and more to unlock as you progress through the game. Each car is good for different types of tracks and races. The only downer about the cars in this game is how absolutely blocky they look. I know that RR certainly offers a lot more for the price you pay, but an improvement of graphics would be great. I've seen better looking racers on the iPad, so I know it's possible. I'm not sure what the hold was on improving that aspect, as the cars don't look great in HD. Anyway, they still look like cars, so you will be able to wrap your mind around them without a hitch.
You get a ton of tracks with this as well. For example, when you start the game (the full game) you get 22 tracks to choose from. Each track is about 2-3 laps long and differs significantly from one another. It's impressive and very arcade. I'm particularly impressed with the amount of detail that Namco could put into the environments. You get that awe-inspiring monitor in the first track that shows you a nice reflection of your car (it was a big deal in the arcades). Anyway, neat stuff.
So what else do you get with this game? You get various modes to play. The first, and original, is the Arcade mode. This is the quick race option where you can just jump in and race and be done with it before lunch is up at the office. It's what the original game was in the arcade, minus the quarter slots. The next mode is the Duel mode, which allows you to go head-to-head with the computer. After that you get Survival mode, which is an interesting way to play. It's a four player race that eliminates the last player with each passing lap. Lots of tension with this race mode, so make sure that you've got the controls aced before you walk into it. The last mode is the Time Attack, which is what you think it is.
So, what's missing? Where's the online mode??!! I want to race other iPad jockeys around the world, but it's not there. It's regretful that in this day and age online mode isn't already a given. People love multiplayer, and doubly so in racing games, so that should have been included. Now, with that said, this reviewer doesn't know the infrastructure that needs to be intact for that to happen, so take my complaint with a grain of salt. I know how 360 and PS3 infrastructure works, but not iPad. Not sure it's worth building for an $8.99 game.