Nano Rally—where size doesn’t matter and the fun is much bigger

Posted: July 27, 2009 in Racer

One of my favorite toys as a kid and even now are micro machines, super miniature-sized vehicles where the size was more the attraction rather than what they could do. The iTunes store has numerous racing games, but Nano Rally struck me right away as something I just had to try…and, I’m glad I did. With visually eye-catching environments and highly responsive, customizable controls, Nano Rally provides quite experience.

Visually, the first thing you’ll notice is that everything is miniaturized—your little nano racer is sitting on the kitchen table nestled within an assortment of candy, utensils and even vegetables. I’m not sure what that family is having for dinner, but it sets the stage for interesting obstacles that will take you through 25 tracks in 6 different environments.

Nano Rally offers two modes of play–Single Race and Championship—which provide enough flexibility for those looking for a quick race in Single or for a more prolonged campaign approach with Championship. The controls are responsive and well implemented giving you the option of using on-screen controls illustrated by left/right arrows for steering, a brake and an accelerator/gas pedal. You can adjust the tilt sensitivity, auto or manual acceleration, and tilt or no tilt for steering. Personally, I use the accelerometer for steering set on medium and the on-screen accelerator/gas pedal because it gives me more than enough control. Of course, you can set the gas on automatic so you don’t need to worry about using the accelerator and that works perfectly fine. Prior to each race, there’s additional functionality to tweak certain things depending on the track such as acceleration, top speed, brakes and handling. For example, boosting acceleration and handling will increase your times in the Kitchen circuit because of more straightaways with a few hair pin turns. While you can customize controls and tweak certain features, Nano Rally doesn’t offer any visual customization of your car so hopefully blue is your favorite color or at least one you can stand.

The attention to detail in the tracks is obvious taking you through various scenes from the kitchen to the garden among others. The tracks themselves are not confusing. What happens on occasion with racing games is that you can get lost because of the lack of track markers and you wind up losing time trying to figure things out. In Nano Rally, the tracks are set in a way that they are visually obvious where the path leads although a drawn race path may make sense in a future update. Fortunately, the responsive controls allow you to steer and make turns rather quickly and accurately. In order to unlock circuits, you must place in the top 10 in the previous championship, which honestly is not that easy. I think this is one area that needs re-tooling because it can difficult given the track times, and you soon find out, that only one mistake can cost you a race.

Something worth noting is while I understand people want to be racing alongside other racers, Nano Rally in its current form can be somewhat addicting since you’re trying to crack the top 10 to unlock other tracks. Having said that, your nano racer can get lonely after a while, and I can envision extended replay value with increased competition.

A few cosmetic things that Nano Rally needs to address is the lack of a soundtrack (not a big deal), although the sound effects are nicely implemented with revving engines and even screeching as you make quick hairpin turns. The brake pedal can be a little close to the accelerator, and it would be ideal if the on-screen controls also changed based on your control preferences (e.g. remove the accelerator if I choose auto gas). The navigating of menus can be somewhat clumsy as I’m constantly told that my data will be deleted when I start a new race, and moving between screens is not as intuitive as it should be.

The gameplay in Nano Rally is solid and very enjoyable, much more than I expected, providing a fun and entertaining racer that I recommend. Sure, you’ll be frustrated, but I’m sure you’ll also find it engaging enough that you will keep trying…and that’s much bigger than the cars themselves.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (seriously a fun little racer and I can only assume this will get even better with the planned updates)

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