Review: Raging Thunder by Polarbit
This review originally appeared within iLounge’s iOS Gems series within the compilation article, iPhone Gems: Sports Games - Soccer, Golf, Air Hockey, Tennis + More. Additional details may be found in the original article.
If there’s any sport game genre we love, it’s car racing—we were massive fans of Sega’s Daytona USA coin-op racing series, which eventually gave way to many NASCAR, rally, and Formula One racers. Though prior iPhone racing titles haven’t struck us as totally awesome, we’ve continued to hold out hope for an game with more compelling arcade-style action. At first glance, Raging Thunder by Polarbit seems to be just such a game: it has the general look and feel of Daytona USA, with action-intense, simplified controls and four-car simultaneous racing. There are 10 different courses, four different cars with different handling, acceleration, and speed characteristics, and a few on-track performance enhancers to pick up. You need to keep passing through checkpoints to keep racing; as soon as you fail to hit one before your timer runs out, the game is over. A Wi-Fi multiplayer mode lets you select whichever tracks you’ve unlocked during the game, which is harder than it might initially sound; due to the lack of a simple single-player track selection menu, you are basically stuck going in sequence through tracks here. Gameloft’s Asphalt 4, previously reviewed by us, is much friendlier about track unlocking and selection.
Though we found Raging Thunder to be fine to control after an initial 30 minutes of getting used to the accelerometer-based tilting and automatic acceleration, precise driving proved elusive, and an odd touch-controlled steering alternative with on-screen line art proved worse rather than better. While you don’t need precision to stay on the the course, you do need it to avoid occasionally hitting the walls, which is necessary to keep advancing through tracks, and to grab or avoid icons. Lightning bolts make you go faster, while skulls make you slower, and dollars can be gathered in a championship mode to build up your car’s performance. As with too many iPhone OS driving games, the big “skill” to be learned here is the steering you take for granted on any other pocket device, and it’s combined in Raging Thunder with opponent cars who are certainly not encumbered with accelerometer-based controls.
Graphics and audio here are hard to sum up simply: the visuals are smooth, with fewer graphical hiccups than we’ve seen in other titles, but they’re not exceptionally detailed or as ambitious as in the best prior iPhone graphics engines we’ve seen. Raging Thunder’s backgrounds and cars look pretty good, like an above-par Nintendo 64 title rather than the PlayStation’s surprisingly strong original Ridge Racer, and there’s occasionally a “going fast” special effect such as light trails that actually impresses. Sonically, the game is saddled with mediocre music and sound effects that occasionally just stop working altogether, but at least there’s something here to be heard… most of the time.
Overall, Raging Thunder actually delivers smooth and somewhat interesting arcade-style racing, but between its somewhat harsh approach to track selection and its less than totally precise controls, it doesn’t deliver the completely fun experience we were hoping for. Given its $8 asking price, we’d put it in the same general category as all of the other racers we’ve tried on the iPhone to date: Asphalt 4 remains the category’s most ambitious, but with issues and too high of a price, while this one is a little less ambitious, a little less expensive, and a little smoother. If you’re looking for a multiplayer title, go with Asphalt, but if a simple arcade driving game is what you’re after, this one is worth considering. iLounge Rating: B-.