It must be said that there are some great games on iOS devices, and not all of them feature cute, cuddly characters, avian agitators or monsters that have too much an affinity for Werther's Originals. Indeed, the racing game market is awash with decent titles; the top down DrawRace 2 and Asphalt 6 being particular faves.
However, on the Xbox 360, there's one racing game that we've been hooked on from the day it first arrived and, to date, its not had a quality equivalent on the iPad or iPhone. That game is Trials HD - RedLynx's frustratingly addictive side-scrolling, physics-based motorcycle racer - and while we've seen good equivalents on iPad, et al, such as Xtreme Wheels, there's not been anything quite like their inspiration. Until...
- iPad / iPhone / iPod touch
- iTunes (Universal)
Put together, effectively, by a super group of developers, Bike Baron has been much anticipated. The team behind it has also, collectively, been responsible for the excellent iOS games Minigore, Death Rally and Aqua Globs, while the score has been provided by the composer of Angry Birds and Trine. In short, it already comes from indie royalty. And, thankfully, it delivers in all the right places.
That's not to say that it's an original concept. It isn't. In fact, you can trace this type of game - the side-scrolling, platform style trial bike racer - back to Kickstart on the ZX Spectrum in the 1980s, but its most recent muse is the superb Xbox 360 title Trials HD. Even the graphics owe something to Joe Danger on the PlayStation 3, but that doesn't mean that Bike Baron isn't worthy in its own right. Far from it.
The thing that this Qwiboo game does best is grab you by the short and curlies and refuses to let go. Not only does it have a "just one more go" nature, but it will soon be the reason behind marriage break-ups, kids not speaking to their parents, and a fair few sickies pulled at work. It's addictive in spades. In fact, it's addictive, whatever gardening utensils you happen to have lying around.
You don't even need to go through a comprehensive tutorial before play. There's only four buttons you need to press - lean left, lean right, go and stop - and we're very pleased that the developers have resisted the urge to add gyroscopic controls into the mix. Waggling your arms around when on the tube is not a way of a) remaining inconspicuous, or b) making friends. Old fashioned controls for old fashioned gamers, and we're happy with that (although you can set whether you're right or left-handed).
Even the game progression is simple, relying on the tried and trusted "earn up to three stars" level method. Stars can be earned through finishing the course in a set time, collecting coins, and even the amount of back or front flips you manage along the way. But added to this format is the way you unlock the next level. Each unlock costs a certain amount of stars, so, unless you do particularly well, you may find yourself running out, and thus having to go back to a stage you hadn't completed in full.
We always found, with a game like Angry Birds, after a while we couldn't be arsed to complete every level perfectly, and didn't need to before putting the game down for the last time. Bike Baron's system, however, rewards perseverance in a more transparent manner.
If there are any downsides, it's that the later levels can get so ridiculously hard that you may find the urge to fling your iDevice across the room. Trials HD fans will know this feeling well, but an Xbox 360 joypad is a darn sight less expensive to replace than an iPad.
Also, the main music is so reminiscent of Angry Birds that it actually gets on your tits after a while.
But these are minor asides on what is one of the best iOS games out there at the moment.
Say goodbye to your free time.
Have you tried Bike Baron? If so, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below...