Review: K-Rally for S60 3rd Edition Review
Version Reviewed: 1.00
K-Rally for S60 3rd Edition
Ahh, this is more like it! K-Rally is a brilliant Micro Machines-style driving game with gorgeous graphics, in-game tutorials, loads of features and addictive gameplay. This is how smartphone games ought to be made, and congratulations to Polish company Infinite Dreams for what is one of the best and most fun S60 games so far.
Go on then...
A review? You want a review?
Fair enough... :-)
K Rally is a top-down 3D racing game where you and several opponents have to race around a variety of tracks. You can play dirty if you want, in fact the scoring system encourages it, by ramming your car into the rear or sides of your competitors or even by firing rockets and laying mines. (Incidentally the violence is very cartoony, cars which receive a direct hit from your weapons are accompanied by speech bubbles full of censored swearwords and carry on driving after getting back on the track.)
The core gameplay is good, it's really easy to get into but has long-term challenges to give it some depth. K-Rally is an arcade racer than a realistic one, but it does have consistent physics and it's satisfying when you get into a good rhythm that lets you take corners without overshooting them. (Some people may feel that K-Rally lacks overall speed due to its top-down perspective, but that's to do with the genre itself rather than the quality of this game.) The weapons side of things makes K-Rally all the more enjoyable, although they only really work if you're near the person you're firing at. This isn't Super Mario Kart and you can't win a race if you fall too far behind.
The graphics are lovely and clearly make use of the Symbian hardware. Although the gameplay is 2D, the whole game takes place in a detailed and smooth 3D world full of tall trees and pillars of rock, with clouds and birds that float past the camera, and lighting including shadows and headlights. The skins which determine the graphics are separate from the tracks, so you might race several times on the same track and it could look completely different each time. Skins also sometimes add new features such as ice or rain, which can affect your driving ability. K-Rally has relatively complex graphics, but you can set it to run at seven different levels of detail if you feel it's too slow on your particular Symbian model. The game supports full-screen mode both vertically and horizontally, although the options menu screens are vertical only and appear with black sidebars on horizontal phones. The screenshots in this review are taken from a phone model with a vertical screen, but the game worked equally well on a horizontal screen, and indeed this review was written while playing the game on a Nokia E61.
If you want to see the game in action, Infinite Dreams themselves have posted official videos of the game in action on a forest track, on a wintry track, on a traditional race track, and in an Alpha version on a Nokia 6630.
The sound is nice, with an Amiga-esque funky main theme tune and in-game frantic techno tracks. The sound effects are crisp and generally what you'd expect from a racing game.
The menus are polished and professional, with sharp comic-book artwork representing the characters in the game and a profile system that lets you run up to four separate characters with their own careers and unlockable avatars. There are extensive options but the structure of the menus is logical and intuitive, so you only have a minimum of clicks to do the things you want to do most often.
The controls are simple enough to work on almost any phone keypad layout: left and right steer, up launches rockets, down lays mines, 4 accelerates (you let go of it to slow down) and 7 uses turbo boosts (or accelerates if there aren't any turbos left). If you're unhappy with any of this you can set your own controls, and you can also set the controls for the menus too. There's options to set the car to automatically accelerate and/or turbo boost, with the actual accelerate button acting as a brake in this mode.
Learning the Ropes
The game opens with a tutorial, which gets you acquainted with the controls and the gameplay. Once you've completed that, the Quick Race mode is unlocked, which lets you do one-off races and earn Experience Points as you do so. Experience Points (XP) are the cornerstone of the game, they let you unlock new cars, game modes, skins, avatars and other features. The higher your position in a race, and the more important the race, the more XP you earn, and you can also get XP from blowing up rivals cars and picking up bonuses during the race.
Modes of Transport
- Championship mode
Once you've earned enough XP in Quick Race, the Championship mode is unlocked and you get into the game proper. Championship racing involves four progressively more difficult leagues with six races in each league. You earn XP as in the Quick Race, but in Championship mode you also get money from your sponsor for coming first, second or third, and you can also pick up cash on the course itself. The money can be used in the garage for buying upgrades and making repairs to your car between Championship races, and every so often your sponsor will buy you a whole new car.
You can also make money on the side when you're occasionally offered a private bet just before a race, usually involving finishing in a certain position or within a certain time.
- Career Mode
Somewhat similar to Championship mode, but you can purchase cars yourself, and there are no individual leagues, just one big career table.
- Random Track Generator Mode
You enter a code and a track is generated based on that code. If the track seems really good, you can revisit it later by writing down the code and re-entering it next time. The same codes will work on all copies of the game, so you can "share" tracks by giving other people your favourite codes.
- Ghost Mode
As you'd expect from the name, Ghost Mode is a straightforward race against yourself, with your best time on various tracks appearing as a ghostly grey car that you have to beat to the finish line. No bonuses or weapons are involved as there are no other real cars on the track.
Bluetooth Multiplayer and other Extras...
K-Rally was developed with built-in Bluetooth multiplayer, however multiplayer hasn't been included on the first release version due to technical hitches at the last minute. According to the developers it will be available as an upgrade patch very soon, and there will also be a completely free multiplayer client application which will allow up to four Symbian owners to play together with just one copy of the game (in the same way that the Nintendo DS allows you to play Mario Kart DS on several consoles at once with just one game).
Infinite Dreams has also promised more free goodies on the way, including downloadable cars, tracks and track skins, and an online scoreboard.
K-Rally is a brilliant commercial quality smartphone game, it has great graphics and fun gameplay, with phone-friendly customisable controls and enough depth to keep it playable over a longer period. The user interface is just as it should be, and there's obviously been a great deal of effort put into all aspects of this game. It's very refreshing to see such a professional piece of work on a smartphone, and the price is good value too ($14.95/£9.95/€14.95).
If you absolutely hate top-down racing games then this probably isn't your cup of tea, but everyone else should get a lot of enjoyment from K-Rally.
PS: You can see a video of K-Rally running on a Nokia E61 over at the Unofficial Nokia Gaming Blog.
Infinite Dreams on the Next Gen gaming platform
With Sky Force, Super Miners and now K-Rally under their belts, Infinite Dreams are clearly quite good at making Symbian smartphone games. It's no surprise then to find that Nokia are employing them to develop First Party titles for the Next Gen gaming platform, due out in the middle of 2007 across a wide range of Nokia S60 3rd Edition devices.
Infinite Dreams' first game for the platform will be Creatures Of The Deep, a fishing simulator which sports some rather good looking renderings of various fishing holes around the world. There's already an official website and an official message board, and there will also apparently be online COTD tournaments through the N-Gage Arena.
Reviewed by krisse at