Simplicity is Best

In an era where words like “pencil” and “paper” seem increasingly barbaric, it’s good to know iOS developers are stepping forward to preserve some of the better things from days gone by. For his first iOS outing, Hans-Juergen Richstein adapted that-one-graph-paper-racing-game-that-never-quite-had-a-proper-name. Requiring two or more individuals, this simple yet addictive classic tests its players’ geometric skills and sense of strategy as they draw line segments on a sheet of graph paper according to an elastic set of rules designed to simulate real driving conditions.

Back in the day we’d have to fetch one of our artistically inclined elementary school friends to come up with a properly challenging race track, and there was a fair chance human error in calculating the rules would give someone an undue advantage realized only minutes after the fact. Not so in Dash Race (Out Now, $1.99), where players have the developer and an entire operating system to thank for taking care of those niceties. Here, players can happily focus on the task of planning out their turns and blocking one another’s most efficient moves in a bid to reach the finish line first. How far ahead, and in what direction, a player is allowed to move depends entirely on his or her previous decisions to accelerate, decelerate, or change direction; it was a formula for great fun when it was first devised, and that fun definitely carries over to this iOS rendition.

That’s not to say Dash Race is without its quirks. The touch-and-hold-and-drag (for player input) easily gets confused with the simpler touch-and-drag (for perusing the race track), both by the player and the game engine. Dash Race‘s very nice tutorial also skips over the all-important instruction for re-starting a race in progress, which the player may wish to do if he or she is competing against AI opponents (pro tip: tap the colored pencil in the top left corner). However, once the player gets used to the controls, Dash Race makes for very smooth sailing, or rather, racing. Well, technically both — the game presents a number of different race tracks by default, one of which is apparently a boat level. With the ability to adjust the number and difficulty of AI competitors, not to mention support for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth multiplayer at his or her fingertips, the player is sure to be impressed by the degree to which Dash Race allows itself to be shaped. While the default race tracks are certainly interesting, the one thing players will be tempted to ask for is a level editor. Hey, Woozzle started it!

I was pretty surprised by a groovy instrumental track the developer chose for Dash Race‘s main menu screen, but alas, players will have to bring their own MP3s for actual gameplay. Despite how aesthetically plain a game of this sort is expected to be, the race tracks themselves are very nicely spruced up — though not necessarily optimized for Retina Display, as attempting to pinch-zoom in makes them look grainy.

iFanzine Verdict: A very simple videogame that retains the fundamental strengths of the classic pencil-and-paper game on which it’s based. While it’s not going to sate the needs of hardcore gamers by any means, Dash Race is a wonderfully rendered take on something that very much deserves to be passed on to future generations. Definitely a quality app for the kids, should you happen to be looking for something that gives them a break from slaying zombies with sharp implements.

[xrr rating=4/5]