Quick, easy-to-play games have always been popular on iOS, but the success of Flappy Bird and others seems to have further emphasized the “quick.” Pako – Car Chase Simulator ($2) by Tree Men Games certainly has more detail and thought than most of those titles, but we’re still talking about a game in which each round lasts not minutes, but seconds. It’s on sale for $1 for a limited time.
Pako is a basic-looking game that will remind some of the early Grand Theft Auto games, with a fun premise — you’re driving a car, so try not to crash. Yes, the police are chasing you, but the levels will give you enough of a challenge on their own without that hot pursuit. That’s due to the control scheme — tapping the left side of the screen turns left, tapping the right side turns right. And that’s it. Your car automatically travels at a steady speed. There is no braking, no going in reverse. If you’re going to swerve into a wall, you’re already too late.
Unfortunately, nearly every bump in Pako is a crash. Sideswipe a car? Crash. Run into some stairs? You’re done. Don’t brush up against that lamppost, either. Within seconds — 10, 20, 30 — it’s time to restart. Now, some will certainly argue that this is part of the game’s appeal. You can play 50 times in one sitting without giving it a second thought. But that argument can be made with any of these short attention span specials. And there’s a difference between difficulty level and designed frustration.
Pako offers five different levels with five different cars, all varying in fun factor. The mall level is a good start, though the car is a bit floaty. The cemetery level, in which you drive a slow hearse around, is a slog. Another level lets you putter around in a zippy three-wheeler with a tight turning radius. That’s fun, until you get blasted by a tank — which seems a little excessive. It’s as if the developers felt as if they were letting you get away with something by giving you a car that’s easier to drive.
For all its faults, Pako can be fun in short bursts. Like any of these games, it can draw you in a bit as you attempt to beat your sad high score. But it feels like a missed opportunity. A similar title with tighter controls, longer excursions, and larger levels could have made for an inexpensive little gem. Pako trades off that potential for the pursuit of the quick-to-die “one more play” addiction — an unfortunate trend in iOS gaming. Sure, it’s cheap, but so are other, more rewarding games.
iLounge Rating: C.