Retro Racing is a decent little racer, but there’s just not enough gas in the tank

Retro Racing feels like a cross between Rally-X and R.C. Pro-Am — 2 old school classics. Not directly mind you, more in inspiration or “feel” than anything else. But still, those are two top-notch racers in my book, so if that’s where my mind wandered while playing I take that as a pretty good sign. But, did that positive feeling stick around the longer I played?

In Retro Racing you’ll be in control of an F1 race car that you’ll need to steer and slide around the course in your quest to win first place. To do this you’ll have pretty simple controls at your disposal; just tap zones for left, right and accelerate. You can map the acceleration and steering to either thumb, which was a nice touch and should cover everyone’s personal preferences.

Before driving, you’ll be able to choose between a few different colored cars that have minor differences in speed, acceleration or tire strength. No major swings, but you’ll be able to find the best car to suit your personality or driving style. The racing itself is well done with just the right amount of sliding and grip around the corners.

Sprinkled around the track are various upgrades to those areas mentioned, above which means that over the course of the race you could end up with things like vastly improved acceleration or tire strength. I was a little upset at how spot on you need to be to pick up those power-ups – numerous times I saw my tire run over them and not trigger the pick-up. You really need to hit those things head on to make sure you get them.

Still, though, it’s fun. That being said, there’s just something holding me back from really endorsing the game. It’s just that at the end of the day, there’s not enough here to keep you coming back more than a few times.

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I think my biggest issue with the game was trying to hold the iPhone in a way to really get at the controls comfortably. There’s something tight about holding the device in portrait mode and then having controls for left, right and acceleration along the bottom. To get my fingers over the controls I really had to squeeze my thumbs together and twist my hands enough that I never really felt like I had a solid grip on the device. I’d MUCH rather play a game like this in landscape so that my thumbs rest at a more natural place for the control scheme. I got used to it eventually, but never never liked it.

Gameplay wise, Retro Racing just feels redundant after a race or two. Not enough changes from race to race. You always start in the back, and each race is a one-off affair with no Grand Prix’s or anything like that. You’ll grab those power-ups race after race, and start over power wise each time. There’s no sense of permanence, and with all the races looking generally alike, there’s no compelling reason to ever race the same course more than you is required to move on.

On a less important note, I wish there was a way to get a birds-eye view of the tracks before you race on them. A lot of the courses have shortcuts or alternate routes. The power-ups and obstacles are spread all over the place, and it would help immensely to be able to scope that stuff out ahead of time instead of learning it on the fly against computer opponents that don’t have the same issue.

I love the feel of sliding around corners and executing the perfect pass, and that feeling is presented well in Retro Racing. When the game works well, it works pretty well. But it’s bogged down by a few lingering issues that sadly tarnish the overall experience. There needs to be a little more meat on these bones, because the few pieces here are enjoyable. There’s just not enough of it.