‘Speed Racer: The Beginning’ Mobile Game Review
Thirty years ago, game developers had a simple formula for adapting any movie or TV show -- take the main character, plop it in a side-scroller and force it to dodge and/or kill pixelated objects and enemies that vaguely resembled stuff in the show.
Speed Racer: The Beginning picks up on the bland tradition, pushing out a Speed Racer game that has little to do with speed and nothing to do with racing. The pulpy series would lend itself well to a re-skinned Mario Kart, but the developer instead flushes away all the show's personality to hand you a game featuring a vaguely Mach 5-shaped hovercraft with the ability to double-jump over gaps.
The controls work, even though the interface makes little sense. The gearshift is labeled G, with the letters A through F encircling it. The game includes no shifting or steering, though, and the G is actually the jump button. From time to time you'll hit upon a power-up that lets you boost your speed and cross longer gaps. Memorize where they are and save up your power-ups for opportune times, otherwise you'll run out of lives and have to repeat the whole level.
You can spend your own money on power-ups, but the game mercifully allows you to work off the costs, accumulating enough in-game cash to buy the dopey additions that make the pointlessly hellish ride a little bit smoother.
Forced backtracking is tough enough on its own, but beware the freeze bug that forces you to close out the app and re-start. We only encountered the glitch twice, and for all we know it could have been the fault of our iPod Touch rather than the game itself. Were we not reviewing the game and forcing ourselves to play on, the annoyance would have triggered an immediate, thoroughly satisfying deletion.
The scariest part of the game is the title. If this is only the beginning, the end can't come soon enough.
Speed Racer: The Beginning ($0.99), available on iOS platforms, was developed by Playlithium and published by Social Games International, which provided a code for review. We played the game for two hours on an iPod Touch.