In other words, it’s the ideal racing game. Or, would be, if the developers remembered to put in the racing bit.
Somwhere along the line, this game became a strictly time trial affair. The developers, Jump Games, have admittedly done a good job in mixing things up within that limited frame; there’s two different forms of time trial (fastest lap and average time over a number of laps), and the game keeps track of all of your best scores. There’s both OpenFeint and Game Center integration for achievements and leaderboards, so it’s easy to compete with friends in an indirect fashion through that medium.
But the real problem is that there’s no racing involved. The joy of F1 is twofold; posting blistering speeds, yes, but also experiencing the thrill of slipping past the opponent on the curve and making effective use of slipstreams. There’s an audience for time trials games – Rally car games continue to be popular after all, but an F1 game without the racing is like a tennis game without someone on the other side of the court to hit the ball back.
On the track itself, there’s three different control systems – one that makes use of the gyroscope, and then two that use the touch screen in different ways. None are ideal at first, but most people should find one that works for them with a bit of experimentation – and from there playing the game is easy.
Physics, meanwhile, are a little wonky, especially when travelling at high speeds, or recovering from a sharp corner. In both instances, the game engine does a poor job of interpreting the intent of the input actions, and consequently the car tends to slide all over the track. With practice, it’s an issue that can be overcome, but it’s still too twitchy for the kind of precision that F1 demands.
The F1 cars look good on the tracks, which are simplistic, but effective recreations of their real world counterparts. The fact there are so many tracks within the package is impressive, and it’s a pleasant experience to zip around the circuits and follow the racing line to the best of your ability. There’s limited commentary (mostly just your pit crew telling you you’re doing well, or stuffing up), but that suits the game fine. Soundbytes get annoying when they’re repeated ad nauseum anyway.
One other thing: I’m pretty sure we’re in 2011 now. Whilst I’m sure it is more cost effective to make use of an earlier year’s license, it would have been better if this was a premium-priced iPad game with the current license and a full range of gameplay modes.
As it is, this is fun, but nowhere near essential.