App of the Week: Real Racing 3

Developer: Firemonkeys

Compatible with: iPhone 4 and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod Touch 4th gen and up, iPad 2 and up, iPad Mini, Android devices

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later, Android 2.2 or later

Price: Free

Available here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

Nobody ever expects a gaming app to match their console counterparts in terms of looks and controls. Instead, mobile game developers have learned to focus on the benefits of the format and not the hindrances in order to craft brilliant titles separate, but equal to console games, and not dependent on graphics and the like.

“Real Racing 3” has a different approach. It says screw all that.

First the obvious. “Real Racing 3” is a beautiful game that truly offers console quality graphics, and doesn’t just use it as a tagline. From the cars to the courses, everything is immaculately designed and loses no wow factor even at high speeds. There’s still noteworthy competitors, but I truly believe this is the best looking gaming app yet. You’ll never stop being impressed with this game’s looks.

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But there’s more than just looks to “Real Racing 3,” as its controls are as pristine as that shiny coat of graphical paint. Acceleration is handled automatically, tilting your phone takes care of turning (and actually works, though a touch option is available), and everything from traction control to braking can be computer assisted (the level of which it helps is adjustable). Overall control is nice and tight, and I never once had to question if a bad manuever was the game’s fault or my own (mostly because I suck).

Furthermore the game’s AI is very, very impressive, and is aided by a new multiplayer concept called Time Shifted Multiplayer, which fills each race with AI versions of your friends and other racers around the world while online, meaning you can essentially still race your friends even offline as they can create ghosts of their laps that imitate their habits. However you choose your opponents though, the competition is fierce and fair.

Put all those features together, and the one limit that mobile gaming supposedly had (that it couldn’t match consoles in certain aspects), seemingly no longer applies, meaning that in all technical regards, “Real Racing 3” is the most notable gaming app in some time.

Otherwise, you’ve got your basic, though well executed, realistic racing game. There is a variety of races and challenges (900 events altogether), a nice selection of 40+ cars, real life racetracks, and in general enough to keep you busy for some time trying to beat and see everything available, and even more time afterwards trying to best your efforts.

The only other notable aspect is the freemium model of the game, as “Real Racing 3” is free, but for a price.

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Like many other gaming apps, in-app purchases are available and highly pushed by the design. See the currency in “Real Racing 3” is handled by both funds and coins. Funds are used for buying parts, cars, and the usual and are earned through career progression, while coins are used for other enhancements and are earned by leveling up. Where the dark side of this design emerges in the repair and maintenance system, as you’ll be constantly repairing and maintaining your car’s basic features such as the engine, tires, and oil and using funds to do it. However, it can take several minutes (or even near an hour for multiple repairs) for the work to be done during which time the car is unusable.

This is where coins come in. For a few coins you can make the repair and tuning process instantaneous. The same applies to buying new cars and the like, as purchasing them still requires a waiting period before they can be used, which coins eliminate. The trouble is coins are hard to come by, and you’ll never have an abundance of them to keep up with the need. Instead you are encouraged to buy coins, or cars and upgrades alltogether, with real money to eliminate the tedium.

It’s not the worst pay model I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty bad. Every non-racing activity is a grind, and it takes forever to complete or unlock even the basics, much less the high end stuff due to how money and time is used. You can buy more coins through in-app purchases if you’re desperate, but you can never eliminate the waiting feature, and I really wish that wasn’t the case as it is a huge detriment to the game. Patience is a necessity, and not a virtue, to get the most out of “Real Racing 3.”

While I sometimes wish then that the game cost a few dollars to eliminate that nuisance, the fact it is free means you can, and should,  at least try it. Remove the freemium system, you are left with the gold standard of pure racing games for mobile devices, and a benchmark to the capabilities of the medium as a whole, as well as a game that leaves all other competitors at the starting line, and takes home the trophy for app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Developer:
David Galindo

Compatible with:
iPad 2 and up (including iPad Mini)

Requires:
iOS 3.2 and up

Price:

$2.99

Available here

While some will disagree, cooking is often a rewarding, useful, and relaxing endeavor that all should have some measure of skill in. Not only is it a great creative outlet, but the end result of a well done meal is rewarding in several ways. The same, however, can not always be said of cooking in a high profile, high volume, high pressure kitchen where the work is grueling, thankless, and sometimes cruel. Yet many in the business will tell you the challenge of it is strangely addictive, and that there is no greater satisfaction than a well done shift, and consistently making the perfect meal.

Now there is an app called “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” that perfectly captures that mix of emotions. The iPad version of the PC title of the same name, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” is a restaurant management game that separates itself from the sizeable number of similar titles out there by being insanely detailed, and ridiculously tough.  The very basics of the game see you taking incoming orders and building them via the simple recipe prompt. As the orders pile up, you’ll find yourself having to manage several meals at once (done through a upper corner quene), prepping some while others finish,and always being careful to get to everyone in time without ruining a meal.

It would be an intense enough experience, but where the game separates itself is in the almost anal nature it takes towards its subject matter. You don’t just cook and serve meals, but you also must handle back of the house work like setting rat traps, washing dishes, and taking out the trash. It’s not all grunt work though, as since this is also your restaurant, that means you are the chef, owner, and manager. This is where things get really exciting, since you are tasked with buying food for the day and building a menu that must be familiar, yet fresh, and always evolving. You must deal with food costs, menu changes, special requests, challenges (including “Iron Chef” like competition invites), and even the occasional robbery all while running the day to day activities of your restaurant (a day in the game takes 6 minutes in real time). Ultimately your efforts are in the pursuit of increasing your restaurant’s star rating and public buzz level (and of course purchasing restaurant upgrades) in order to move on to bigger, better, and more challenging venues.

Nothing comes easy in “Cook, Serve, Delicious!”, and during the game’s rush hour moments, things can seem downright impossible. While the actual cooking mechanics aren’t as detailed and interactive as games like “Cooking Mama”, it’s the fact that you are tasked with managing everything, and that everything is so richly detailed, that makes the game so very worthwhile. Building a popular, yet inventive, menu in your own style, and being able to eventually serve it almost instinctively is one of those gaming nirvana feelings that never grows old, because it is always difficult to achieve. Thankfully the challenge doesn’t derive from the touch controls (which are well implemented), and the game’s appetizing graphic style and catchy soundtrack are a constant and welcome presence.

In many ways “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” reminds me of the recently released starship simulator “FTL” where your dream of running a starship (or restaurant in this case) is quickly burdened with the reality of doing so. Yet thanks to some ingenious design, and a well implemented balance of challenge and reward, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” provides a long journey that proves the thrill that comes from overcoming true adversity is often greater than that of any pre-conceived fantasy notions you may have had on the subject. It goes beyond your ideas of the genre, and serves up a tasty app of the week.

  

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