Hill Climb Racing
Your first impressions of Hill Climb Racing are unlikely to involve amazement. The game has rudimentary artwork and a rather repetitive soundtrack, but look a little further into this physics-based buggy game from Fingersoft and you'll find an incredibly compelling experience lurking beneath. Your task is as simple as it is precarious: guide a jeep across a perilously bumpy landscape, collecting coins and topping up your fuel from the canisters that occasionally appear.
Hill Climb Racing's physics engine is one that focuses on fun rather than realism, and it will take you some time to acclimatize yourself to the unique quirks of its handling as you tumble precariously over steep peaks, narrow bumps in the road and sharply angular crevasses. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from mastering the handling though, and if the game is a little eccentric it's also eminently fair. Your attempt ends if you land on your driver's head with a sickening snap, but it will always be your fault!
There is, of course, a purpose to those coins you've been collecting across the varying landscapes, and they're primarily invested in improving your jeep. Upgrading your engine will help you power up those steeper climbs, while an upgraded suspension will make your jeep less inclined to tip end-over-end on the bumpier sections. Improved tires and investment in four wheel drive will also help stabilize things and allow you to push a little further towards a new high score.
For the real big spenders there's a monster truck to unlock, as well as a racing car, which both add their own individual personalities to the road-trip. More reasonably priced are the varied stages of the game which range from the initial countryside romp you start off with for free, to precarious desert dunes and, ultimately, the surface of the moon. As well as pushing to break a new personal distance record, you'll also be set distance objectives to achieve.
One oddity we noticed during our time with Hill Climb Racer was that the brake pedal on the left of the screen could actually be more of a balancing hindrance than a help. For the most part we found that a combination of letting the car naturally settle in the air, combined with judicious use of the gas pedal led us to make much greater progress towards a new high score.
Hill Climb Racing isn't going to win any hearts in the looks or sound departments, but if you can look beyond this surface simplicity you'll find a furiously addictive little racing game that will keep you hooked long after you've grown tired of the more visually bombastic titles on the App Store.