Dirt Moto Racing solid ATV racer with depth, variety and mechanics

Posted: July 4, 2009 in Racer

One of the underrated racers in the iTunes store is Aqua Moto Racing, and while the game has sold reasonably well, the devs and the game haven’t received the stratospheric hype that has escalated others. Call it a lack of dev marketing, the inundation of too many apps and games, or a combination of both. But, here’s hoping Dirt Moto Racing gets the attention it deserves because it delivers a solid and deep ATV racing experience with simple controls and challenging gameplay that should appeal to both casual and serious gamers.

In games such as these, environmental terrains, controls and overall mechanics separate the great and good from the mediocre and poor racers. Dirt Moto Racing does well in all of these areas. Visually, the game looks great and pretty much as I expected based on my experience with Aqua Moto. The graphics are smooth and flow evenly on my iPod Touch 2g v3.0, and I noticed no significant hiccups. The surrounding landscape work seamlessly and provide the immersive experience you’d expect with a racing game.

The game offers two modes of play: Career and Single Event. In Career Mode, there are 8 tours ranked from Class D (easy) up to Class A (extremely hard) that take you through 4 different dirt-type environments—British Columbia, Death Valley, Toronto and the Florida Keys—with day and twilight races. These environments consist of desert, forest trail, dirt park and beach terrains, and they provide different types of driving conditions and impact steering and acceleration. Also, you have the ability to choose the level of difficulty in regards to competing racers—easy, normal and hard. Easy is what it is, with Normal being difficult based on the type of track. And Hard offers the challenging gameplay I expect.

In terms of customization, Dirt Moto Racing allows you to modify your racer in appearance. You can choose from a variety of uniform colors, ATV design and even sex of the driver. And depending on how you perform, Tuning Points are awarded which can be used to customize certain aspects of the ATV. For example, in Career Mode, 1 tuning point is awarded for every 4 medals. Points can then be applied to Top Speed, Acceleration, Steering, Grip, Brakes, Shocks and Lifts. I’ve applied a few of these points, and I’ve found Acceleration is ideal early on followed by Steering which will help as the terrain becomes more difficult. Of course, if Freestyle is important, tuning points for Lifts will be essential. If you’ve played Aqua Moto Racing, the Tuning Points system is set up in the same way and very easy to use.

Stunts can also be performed, which I will get into shortly. Depending on finish and time, medals (gold, silver and bronze) are awarded and additional tours are unlocked. There are a number of medals to be won in which are identified at the top of each tour. The career mode adds a ton of replayability especially with this medal system, and the tracks get significantly more difficult as you progress.

This leads into Single Event because that mode and those tracks are unlocked only when you successfully finish in the top spots in Career Mode. In Single Event, there are 5 event types—Race, Checkpoint, Sprint, Time Trials, and Freestyle. Freestyle is interesting because it involves stunt riding, and points are gained based on the completion and complexity of the stunts. Here, there are also a significant number of medals that can be earned, so there really is a bit of something for everyone.

To summarize, there are 5 event types: Racing and Elimination, Checkpoint, Sprint, Time Trial, Freestyle and Ghost Play. Here is a breakdown of the different event types:

Race—complete 3 laps in one of the top 3 spots against competing racers; Elimination—a 5-lap race with the last place finisher being eliminated until there is one winner
Checkpoint—race against competing racers through a series of numbered checkpoints
Sprint—a timed race based on finish along a track
Time Trial—single events with target times for medaling (single event only)
Freestyle—stunt competitions with target scores for medaling (single event only)
Ghost Play—compete against others by downloading races (results do not count towards Career or Single Event modes)

The game includes a local scoreboard that keeps track of statistics including races entered and won, play time and even longest wheelie. And, the online scoreboard allows you to see how you match up for other racers in the world. The variety of different race types offer a good deal of depth and there should be something for everyone.

The controls are simple: steering is done via tilt/accelerometer with a down arrow in the middle left part of the screen for braking, and an up arrow in the middle right for acceleration. Also, control sensitivity and calibration can be set individually under the Options section. A Speed Boost button is located in the bottom right corner which is charged up during the race and illustrated by flames along the bottom of the screen. The Speed Boost is charged up based on powerslides, wheelies and stunts during races. Also on the left bottom corner is the Speedometer that when tapped offers a rear view so you can see who you’re leaving in the dust. A camera button in the upper left corner enables you to change camera views from behind the ATV to behind the wheel and vice versa. These implemented touches that are incorporated nicely into the screen without adding any clutter.

I mentioned stunts, and I appreciate that the devs made them easy to implement. There are 3 stunt difficulty levels both on the ground and in the air—Normal, Hard and Extreme—consisting of 12 stunts and 4 mega stunts. Throughout races and time trials, a green, yellow or red button appears usually when jumping a dune, and by pressing this button combined with a finger swipe in a specific direction, a stunt is performed. Stunts include 360, Backflip, Front Flip and Whip, but they work reasonably well. The big key here is to get enough air on a jump to perform an air stunt. Otherwise, your driver will wipe out. Even with powerslides, watch out for side barriers and other competitors who can derail you.

Before I get into actual gameplay, another area worth mentioning is the Achievement system. In addition to medals, Dirt Moto Racing also has 21 achievements to be earned through the game modes. These range from completing the Rookie Tour and Boost Master (using Boost 20 times in a race) to Living Legend (unlocking 20 achievements) and Hall of Fame (collecting all medals). My particular favorite is Such a Saint where you manage to not hit or touch any other ATVs during a career event.

The gameplay is smooth and the racing is definitely fun. The different soundtracks and sound effects provide quite the immersive experience. If you don’t like the engine sounds for whatever reason, you can even turn them off. The driving experience is pretty realistic and this goes back to the mechanics. When you’re bumped or bump someone else, you’ll feel it visually. In many cases, you won’t need to complete an entire tour before you can move on to the next which allows for variety. Getting medals isn’t easy either because the tracks are different enough to add to the challenge.

One of the issues I have especially with the desert tracks is the ease of being disoriented because of the lack of signs identifying the track. Because there isn’t a mini-map which I think should be included, getting lost or confused is much easier than you think especially if you’ve going through the track the first few times. The devs do include a function so that if you wind up going off track or even in the wrong direction, the game will automatically take your driver back to the last spot. You may lose a position in the race, but at least you’re not spinning your wheels…no pun intended. One of the nuances is like is the ability to bump competitors and vice versa, and in many cases, knock them off their bikes. If you don’t manage to knock them off, they will at least raise their fist and comment accordingly.

Overall, Dirt Moto Racing offers a terrific off wheel experience, and the depth should be obvious. The Career Mode is a must for racers and it’s presented and done well, while Freestyle adds that element of creative racing that many prefer. Responsive controls, content depth, and varied track conditions make Dirt Moto Racing a strong racer.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (recommended for racing fans that enjoy different event types; solid gameplay, top notch graphics and mechanics make this a worthy addition)

Check out my impressions at http://toucharcade.com/2009/07/04/dirt-moto-racing-powerslides-into-the-app-store/

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