Review: Protoxide: Death Race
"Are global warming, abnormal weather, increasing number of cataclysms all over the planet, cocktails of earthquakes, tsunamis and blowing nuclear power-stations the reasons to think about incoming apocalypse?" runs the blurb for this 'Protoxide: Death Race' in the Nokia Store. Ignore all that. Completely. This is a futuristic, high-octane, adrenaline-filled racing game, pure and simple. With Stunningly. Smooth. Mind. Blowing. Graphics.
I make no apologies for the preponderance of screenshots in this review - Protoxide: Death Race is graphically gorgeous and you'll get a great sense of the care and attention put into the title by the developers - this is no quick Symbian hack. Although previously available for iOS and Android, the Symbian version of Protoxide has been lovingly and skillfully put together from original graphics and it shows. From cut scenes to menus to sound effects to cinematic ship selection to the speed and splendour of the live action, this is as good as it gets.
As you'll gather from the lovely splash screen and from the screenshots towards the bottom half of the review, this is a part driving, part flying, part shooting game. As I said in the header paragraph, best to ignore most of the back story (when proferred) and simply concentrate on lightning fast reactions for succeeding in the main game.
As with most action games, there's the chance to leap straight into the action (in which you still get given a tutorial) or to start the whole 'story' campaign, essentially giving you challenges (destroy a certain amount of other racers during the race) over a series of different courses.
Either way, you get treated to some amazing interstitial scenes. This one's straight out of Star Wars, with a real time rendered space port to choose your craft - touch each craft as it's presented to spin it and examine it in more detail.
You can keep up to four player profiles going at the same time, in case you have one or more family members who really gets into Protoxide:
And, impressively, the entire game works in a dozen languages, you can cycle through them here in Settings. I think this is Russian?
The aerial race tracks are based on parts of a futuristic (ruined?) city. Not that it really matters, you'll be flying a few feet above the ground at a few hundred miles per hour, so there's not going to be much time to look around at your surroundings.
Challenges are based around either finishing a race in a particular position or destroying a certain number of opponents. In Campaign mode, you're effectively working your way around a city. But don't think progress will be easy, it took me an hour of racing to make it onto track number two....
There are cut scenes to admire and tap your way through - these are only a few taps deep, thankfully, as you'll want to get onto the meaty stuff - racing!
Ah yes, racing. At warp speed. Herocraft has done a tremendous job in keeping the graphics smooth here. Your gameplay view is part HUD, part rear view, with top indicators for health and fuel ('nitro'), an overview of where you've got to in the current 'lap', plus virtual controls for 'pause' (top right), nitro boost (left), brake (bottom left) and shield (bottom right). All very pretty, stylishly implemented and well thought out.
Your main steering controls are your phone's accelerometers, of course, treat Petroxide as a typical driving game, with the difference that there's no actual ground contact and there are no out and out crashes. Slam into a wall and you grind to a halt in terms of air speed, but you don't actually die - which is just as well, since you'll be hitting walls rather a lot. But if you want to win the race and also catch up to opponents in order to destroy them then you're not going to want to hit that many walls along the way.
As you fly along, there are floating powerups galore, to add fuel, missiles or shields to your ship. Actually picking up a powerup involves passing through their centre - Petroxide is quite fussy in this regard, but overall seems well pitched - you'll pick up a dozen or so powerups in most races.
Shields are important, you'll get several during each race if you pick them up when available, because behind you will be opponents firing missiles at you - there's an on-screen red '!' alert that pops up a second or so before impact and this gives time to activate one of your shields - disaster averted. Or you can choose to try and zoom on ahead using nitro and escape missiles by being around the next corner. It's up to you.
All of which means that you'll need to fight back and score some victories of your own. Maintain a firing distance behind an opponent racer and you'll automatically get a missile lock (shown with a green 'radar' halo) - keep that lock for a second or two (which often requires some nifty flying) and your ship will bang off a missile automatically. One more bad guy in bits - ha!
Although this isn't a car racing game, there is - curiously - the concept of pitstops, with channels to fly through that refuel and re-equip your ship. Worth looking out for, anyway.
There's also a 'Multiplayer' mode, though - as ever - I'm fighting the problem of being one of the only people in the world to even know about this title on Symbian - unsurprisingly, there were no players online anytime that I tried over the last week. I was surprised that I wasn't allowed to race against iOS and Android Protoxide players - perhaps those platforms are Wi-fi multiplayer only?
Interestingly, Herocraft's even started its own mini social network, signing up members to 'Yourcraft', bringing together keen Protoxide (and other game titles, presumably) players and adding bonus functions like being able to design your own levels.
Although coming belatedly to Symbian, the version that Herocraft has come up with is pretty stunning. It may be standard fare on the gaming-excelling iOS platform, but Protoxide: Death Race stands out as particularly high class on Symbian, for which really high class games still number in the tens rather than hundreds.
If you're into action games then this is great value for money at £1.50. Even if you're not into action games, it's almost worth grabbing just so that, when taunted by an iPhone owner down the pub, you can show off that Symbian's not as behind the curve as they might think - Protoxide on Symbian plays just as well as on the other big-screened touch platforms.
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 17 April 2012
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at