Alpine Racer for the iPhone. Developer: Namco, Publisher: Namco Networks. $5.99
When a new first person shooter appears, I often have a point of reference for its weaponry. Over the years, I’ve fired a perverse amount of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Therefore, when a game features a Desert Eagle, I know if the amount of accuracy and recoil jive with my real world experiences. One activity I’ve never engaged, is any kind of snow sport, from skiing to snowboarding. All my experiences have been in the virtual realm, from Activision’s Skiing for the 2600 to SSX for the Playstation 2.
Although I’ve never been skiing, I doubt the Alpine Racer, Namco’s latest snow racer for the iPhone, is anything close to a simulation. That would be perfectly acceptable if the title offered the arcade sensibilities found in the aforementioned SSX. Unfortunately, even as an arcade diversion, Alpine Racer offers a slightly lackluster experience.
Players are offered two control methods- touch and tilt control. When touch control is selected, the player controls the virtual athlete with their left thumb, pressing left or right to steer. A slight move forward initiates a tuck to reduce wind resistance and increase speed. The right thumb is used to press an icon when the player is airborne and wants to execute a trick. Sadly, the game’s tracks are predominantly turn based, and don’t allow for much ‘air’. Twice when playing with the touch control method, the game seemed unresponsive, although that could be due to my large thumb size.
The second control method doesn’t offer as much finesse. When players approach a patch of trees on the virtual slopes, tilt control proved slightly inexact. Quite often I would hit a tree that I was desperately trying to avoid, slowing my race times. Luckily, hitting a solid object only sends the player into a short tumble animation.
Sadly, Alpine Racer doesn’t offer the track diversity I would have expected. The game offers only three tracks, plus one unlockable course. Although each of the courses contain a number of junctions, they also contain a high number of right angles that seem out of place in a skiing/snowboarding game. Graphically, the game’s framerate is typical for an iPhone racing title, and is just shy of being fluid.
Although, the iTunes Store has a dearth of winter sports titles, there are a multitude of racers on the platform that all feel strangely similar. For fans that must have a snow-based competition, Alpine Racer wins by default. However, for the player with more relaxed standards, there are a number of slightly stronger apps out there.