Ion Racer is a new endless game from SGN, or the Social Games Network. It’s a solid concept with fun, speedy gameplay that is unfortunately trapped within the confines of an arduous and grueling progression and reward system that’ll work you like a dog without any adequate compensation. It looks great, sounds great, and has loads of potential, but all of that is squandered in the name of pushing in-app purchases, turning this game into a very mediocre affair.
This game puts you in the cockpit of a Wipeout or F-Zero style speeder and seeks to test your reflexes. As you hurtle through an absurdly long tunnel, you’re asked to crash into and dodge various gates. Blue gates give you points and red gates take away some of your shield. Although, there are special blue gates with crosses on them that restore one of your shield units for every three you smash. You have two special tools in your arsenal; focus mode and strike mode. Focus mode slows the world down, allowing for otherwise impossibly quick maneuvers and last minute dodges, while strike mode gives you a massive speed boost, letting you smash through red gates unharmed. These powers will use up energy, which you replenish by collecting the hundreds of little ion orbs that litter the track.
Everything is built around the game’s mission system, which gives you three random objectives to complete, such as smashing through a certain number of red gates or collecting a certain number of ion orbs. You can’t get new objectives until you complete a full set, but every time you do, you get a big reward bonus. Your rewards for doing well in the game come in the form of Kions, the game’s currency. This currency is used for everything, whether you’re unlocking new vehicles or upgrading your current one, or even buying consumable perks to help you along. And yes, this is where everything goes horribly, horribly wrong. Everything is ludicrously expensive, which would be fine considering the exponentially increasing rewards, but completing these missions can be stupidly difficult. You need to upgrade your ships agility or shields or energy to do well, and for that you need Kions, and to get Kions you need to do well. It’s the definition of “brutal,” and not worth all the effort in the slightest. But oh, of course, in-app purchase Kions are readily available. Yeah, good luck ever seeing those extra two vehicles.
This all wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t already being sold for one dollar at the time of this review. I’m used to this kind of nonsense from free games, but paid? The game is loaded with potential. It’s based around a few simple mechanics that support each other, and even the tilt controls are well done! There are non-tilt options as well, but they are far less precise and have a kind of delayed reaction to them, making me actually prefer the tilt controls for once. The bright, neon visuals look great, and the game has a solid and energetic techno soundtrack that sets the tone for speed, but all of it is wasted. Oh yeah, Game Center achievements are featured, the game is iOS Universal, yadda, yadda… I’d say you should definitely pass on this one. The good aspects simply do not outweigh the bad here.