As I have said before in a previous review, good racing games are hard to come by on the iPhone and believe me I have tried a few of them, most of which have not been greatly inspiring. Real Racing and Real racing 2 are the big exceptions, which for phone games are nothing short of astounding. But those are car racing games and for the biker out there who is looking for a quick fix, things are even tougher with good bike racing games very few and far between, with Moto GP being the one saving grace. That is until now. With the arrival of Ducati Challenge on the App Store, the prayers of bike racing game fans could well have been answered.
I usually begin my reviews by basically letting you know what is involved in the game. This time it is pretty straight forward; you take part in various races riding a variety of motorbikes, a variety that is so long as it is manufactured by Ducati. This at first sounds as though it may limit the game but nothing could be further from the truth. It would have been so easy for the game developers, Digital Tales, to create a game with one or two bikes from the superbike championships and this would have no doubt been enough to appease many fans, especially those of the sport themselves. However, instead of taking that route the developers, although including the high powered bikes mentioned, have ensured there is a nice mix of bikes from the Monster 1100 EVO to the Multistrada 1200 S, all the way up to the race tuned Superbike. So although the game is a showcase for the Italian bike manufacturer, the variety within the game is enough to keep players of the game happy.
The choice of tracks is also varied. I say tracks because although you are racing laps, the majority of the tracks here are not so much racing circuits. Race locations include countryside, desert and city road sections turned into race tracks, meaning that during one race you could be tearing through the countryside, climbing mountains, speeding over blind crests and braking hard for tight hairpin turns, or roaring down a highway before crossing a bridge into a cityscape with high speed turns, offering no room for error which would not lead to a collision with a barrier. This choice in tracks means that they are not only good for racing, but at times can actually feel like you are just out for a leisurely cruise with the AI racers who make up the pack.
Speaking of both the bikes and the tracks alike, it has to be said that the developers have done a pretty good job when it comes to the look of the game considering the device that it is being played on. It still amazes me that I can still be surprised by the level of graphics that some developers manage to squeeze into the games which run on the iPhone. Each of the bikes are well done looks-wise and you can easily tell the difference between them. The same can be said for the tracks and scenery through which you find yourself racing. Be it the green fields and mountains of the country tracks or the dusty deserts they all look pretty good as you race through them. The game does not only impress on the looks side of things, but it also sounds the part to. All the bikes sound much as you would expect them to from the roar of the lower powered bikes to the scream of the high end superbikes. The popping exhaust while on the brakes is a nice little audio touch also.
As everyone here reading this knows, good looks and sound alone do not a good game make. In fact, these things are nothing if the game itself does not play well. Thankfully however Ducati Challenge mostly delivers in that area also. The controls are extremely simple yet work so well for the game, with throttle and brake controlled simply by touching the screen in the bottom right and left of your phones screen respectively, and steering handled by tilting the device to lean into and turn corners, the more you tilt the harder you turn. For players new to this type of game on the iPhone, I would suggest leaving the auto brake assist on for your first few races. I also do this until I get the used to many racing games on the iPhone as I always need to get the hang of how vehicles handle while using the tilt to steer method. This assist, as it’s name suggests, handles the braking for corners and not only helps you become accustomed to how the bikes handle but also lets you learn braking points for the tracks. After a few races however, more experienced players can disable this feature and take full control.
The difficulty of the races is a little hit and miss depending on how well you are doing in the early championships. The AI riders will offer a decent challenge. However, if you are doing particularly well yourself, you can build up quite a lead over the two laps which make up the majority of the races. The same can be said if you are not doing so well. Have one or two crashes and the race can still be salvaged. Come off the bike four or five times however and you will have quite a challenge catching up with the leaders once more. The same can be said for the later championships with one major difference, the chance of crashing seems to be increased with trickier tracks to master. This brings up probably my only problem with Ducati Challenge as a game, it’s not a huge problem and only occasionally bothers me, and that is the crash detection. When it comes to walls and barriers at the sides of the track, then it is all fine. If you hit them you are either slowed down, stopped or, if you are going fast enough, thrown from your bike. The problem arises when it comes to the AI bikes. At times it’s good enough, you know you have hit them. However, if you line up to pass another bike thinking you have left just enough room to make your pass stick and you clip the side of the AI rider, your bike acts as though it has hit the other directly from behind. Like I said before, it is far from a huge problem and does not detract from the fun of the game.
So overall this is definitely a winner for those iPhone owners who are big fans of bikes, bike racing or racing games in general, providing enough of a challenge to both the causal and hardcore gamers alike. It is also one of the best racing games you can find in the App store right now and, as a bike racing game, you will be hard pressed to find a better example on the device. Pick it up now if it sounds like your kind of thing.
Ducati Challenge for iPhone can be picked up from the App Store for £2.39. It is also available for the iPad at £3.49