A brilliantly constructed racer that’s missing its heart.

In the relatively short time that the iPhone has been a gaming destination, the 2XL name has become synonymous with extreme racing excitement. From ATV’s to SnoCross, 2XL has proven it can deliver where it counts. Their latest release steps away from the extreme world of recreational vehicles to dabble in some desert sand rally racing. As a driving simulator, 2XL TrophyLite Rally is second to none. As a racing game though, it just doesn’t quite hit the high note we were expecting.

Veterans of previous 2XL games will immediately notice a host of improvements over their previous engine. The controls feel tighter, putting this game’s among the best tilt steering controls we’ve experienced on the iPhone. The visuals equally managed to impress – in fact, 2XL TrophyLite Rally might just be the prettiest game we’ve ever seen on the system. You can really see what the iPhone is capable of when it’s pushed to the limit here. 2XL TrophyLite Rally offers up a graphical experience that could easily compete with a mid-life PS2 game.

2XL TrophyLite Rally

Other little tweaks are greatly appreciated. Four different camera options let you switch from the exhilarating on-the-hood view to the more traditional behind the car mode. You can switch a variety of on-screen and audio assistances on and off. Want a clear HUD to properly enjoy the picturesque landscape? No problem. Want to have someone call out the turns that are coming up so you can get a heads up on which way to drift next? The game has you covered there too. With 15 tracks, 31 trucks, and the ability to earn real world prizes (US residents only), 2XL TrophyLite Rally manages to offer up the total racing experience… at least that’s what it seems at first glance.

Once you get over the wow factor and get into the nuts and bolts of the racing, you can’t help but notice that something’s missing. Sure the controls feel perfect and the environments and effects and stunning, but the heart of the experience seems to have been forgotten at the starting line. While the driving experience is exhilarating, it almost never feels like you’re part of a race.

For the most part you’ll spend your time on the track alone. There are other cars in the race, sure, but you’re never really neck and neck jockeying for position. Every once in a while you’ll come across a straggler that you’ll pass, but asides from that it’s simply desert as far as the eye can see. Is it faithful to the rally racing experience? Absolutely. But it also really takes the wind out of your sails if you’re looking for edge-of-your-seat competitive excitement.

So much of what made 2XL’s previous games so exhilarating – the head-to-head competition, pulling off tricks, visually distinctive locales – simply isn’t here. The game may be faithful to the world of rally racing, but the world of rally racing is somewhat duller than the extreme racing genres 2XL has tackled before, and this game suffers for it.

2XL TrophyLite Rally

We were also disappointed by the lack of online multiplayer. Racing games live and dies by their real world competition, and 2XL TrophyLite Rally is completely devoid of such options.

On the one hand, 2XL TrophyLite Rally is one of the most polished gaming experiences on the iPhone. The controls and visuals feel tighter and look more beautiful than anything we’ve ever seen before, and as a driving experience, it really is second to none. On the other hand, the game lacks the sense of competition that racing games are all about, and no matter how good the game “feels,” that lack of excitement can lead to boredom fairly quickly.

Pack 16 cars on the track at once, throw it online, and you’ve got a must-own title for the iPhone racing fanatic. As it stands though, 2XL TrophyLite Rally is an outstanding demonstration of a great racing engine and a perfect example of what you can do visually when you push the device to its limits, but it lacks the teeth to really stand out amongst other racers on the iPhone.