Although the iPad racing game starting grid is pretty choked, with the Asphalts and the Need For Speeds jostling for the four-wheeled pole position, motorbike racers are a bit thinner on the ground.
Enter Ducati Challenge from Digital Tales, which nips and weaves through the car-based titles and delivers a graphically impressive, entertaining and challenging two-wheeled experience.
Although sponsored by the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, the title doesn’t suffer from ‘interactive advert’ syndrome, and stands on its own merits as a quality racing title with the emphasis on simulation rather than arcade thrills.
With pleasingly attractive and dynamic menu screens drawing you in from the outset, Ducati Challenge rewards curious gamers with a demanding and challenging experience. Three game modes are available: quick race (a single race on tracks you’ve unlocked so far), multiplayer (local wifi only) and championship. This last mode is where most of the fun and depth lie, as you progress through a series of varied and tyre-testing tracks in an attempt to claim the title from 5 other iPad-controlled opponents.
Mechanics are as we’ve come to expect from iPad racers. Two big pedal-shaped buttons at the bottom corners of the screen are used for braking and throttle; with a little camera icon allowing you to switch views from ‘over the shoulder’ to ‘rollercoaster ride-like 1st person’. Your race time and a map of the course is at the top left, with remaining stats (laps remaining, position) at top right.
Well-implemented motion controls are used for the steering, with tilting left and right steering your motorcyclist; and pitching back and forward causing the bike to go into a wheelie or a quick stop manoeuvre (relatively pointless, though doing this a few times will unlock you a couple of badges in the achievements cabinet).
Being geared towards the simulation end of the market, gameplay is quite challenging at first. Though you have the option to turn on a ‘training wheels’ style auto braking mode, the game is best played without it: either with a warning system which indicates when you’re going into a corner too fast; or – best of all – with no assistance whatsoever.
Racing in Ducati Challenge is all about the cornering and braking – hit the brakes at precisely the right time and lean into the corner and you’ll find the sweet spot, zipping out the bend with little in the way of speed loss. Misjudge however, and you’ll be sent somersaulting off over the handlebars into the crash barriers. This makes for a game which needs your concentration at all times, and results in some satisfying and exciting gameplay as you either aim to get back into first place; or shave some seconds off your best time.
Graphically, Ducati Challenge is lovely to look at. The bikes (understandably, only Ducati models are available) are detailed and ‘feel’ right; whilst the 6 courses in the game have an impressive level of detail and variety, from the thin dusty tracks of the midwest desert, to the freeways of ‘Capitol City’. All in all, a very nice game to look at.
If you’re after a quick burst of adrenaline-fuelled racing, Ducati Challenge probably isn’t for you. The tracks are quite long, meaning even 2 or 3 lap races can take 10 minutes or so to complete. But if you’re a motorbike fan; or are after something a bit deeper than the average racer, Ducati Challenge is well worth leaning into the learning curve for.
Ducati Challenge HD is available on the App Store for £3.49. The game is also available for the iPhone (reviewed here) for £2.39