Sunday, May 13, 2012

Michelin Game - Highway Rider

The App Store has always been the platform for individual developers to try out new and interesting game concepts, and one of the most successful casual gaming ideas that has become a mainstay for iOS is the endless running game category.

Canabalt, which originated from the Flash platform probably started this genre a few years back, and since then, games like Tiny Wings and Monster Dash have taken this concept and improve it with RPG like upgrades and elements.

Most recently, Lane Splitter and Temple Run have been considerably successful by giving this genre a 3D spin on it, and just last week, Battery Acid Games released Highway Rider as a universal game for both the iPad and the iPhone.

The only difference with Highway Rider is that it totally free, and there is absolutely no in-app purchase whatsoever, which makes it kind of stand out among the endless running game crowd.

Title Screen

The game premise is similar to Lane Splitter, in that you play a motorcyclist cruising on an unending highway and the game ends once you hit either another vehicle or objects littered on the side of the road. This game is more like endless driving, rather than endless running.

The main difference here is how you score, and instead of getting the longest distance as in Lane Splitter, your objective is to earn as many "Close Calls" as you can by getting close to a passing vehicle to score a point.

The cars themselves will make things difficult by changing lanes as you get near them, and one of the things you need to decide is where to pass the vehicle as you approach them. It sounds easy here, but when there are several cars on the screen and you are traveling at full speed, it can really get quite harrowing at times.

Simple But Exciting Gameplay

And that is basically it. You start off at a lower speed with only a few cars, but as you pass a car or a truck, your speed will start to increase and the difficulty ramps up with more vehicles and that can make things quite tense and challenging the further you get in the game.

Once you hit something, you are treated to a rather gruesome ragdoll graphics representation of your character flinging into the air and landing awkwardly on the side of the road. This is not one for the kids, for sure.

Depending on how you crash and land, you will have a secondary objective of trying to accumulate as much injury as possible in order to chalk up a hefty medical bill, which is actually part of your Game Center leaderboards. 

Comic Styled Graphics

The graphics here are very simple, but effective and even on the new iPad's Retina Display, the game manages to maintain a high frame rate and that only manages to make the game intensely exhilarating and surprisingly addictive. 

The title screens have a 70s comic style which is rather nostalgic and there is even some minor voice work. When you get hit for the first few times, it is strangely hilarious when you hear your cyclist growl with some funny one liners in seemingly anguished pain as he lands and lies in a pool of blood.

Besides the single player mode, there is also a multiplayer mode where you can connect with another player via Game Center and race against each other to see who can reach 50 close calls first. But more likely, one player will crash before that happens and give victory to the other player.

The game seems to be quite the rage now, as it is one of the top 3 apps in the Free category, and according to Game Center, it has already 2 million players and 4 million downloads so far.

While the multiplayer is interesting, I find myself coming back to the single player mode more often. It has me hooked whenever I have a few minutes to spare, and despite the lack of upgrades, the thrill of chasing cars and avoid getting hit is strangely appealing and gripping at the same time.

Playing this game really reminds me of the trench sequence in Star Wars, and I find myself scoring well when I am like in a "zone", where you seem to be like guided by a Jedi force and you just keep going, like almost in a trance. May the Force be with your highway rider.

As it is free now, this is an easy recommendation, and is the perfect game to play on the subway or on the bus. By all accounts, this looks like to be a very popular game and with 4 million downloads in less than a week, it could be the next runaway success on the App Store. Just be wary of the gory scenes.

Highway Rider (Free) - Click here to download the app.

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