Polarbit knows its way around a car-based racing game, having produced Reckless Racing and its sequel, along with the Reckless Getaway spin-off for mobile devices already. The studio’s latest title is Rail Racing, which takes the real world (such as it was in Reckless Racing) out of the equation, and sets up the racing fun on a slot car track. Slot car racing games are nothing new, and aren’t often all that much fun, but we were keen to give this new title a spin, primarily due to Polarbit’s involvement. It looks like a lot of silly fun from the screenshots, but does it live up to our expectations?
The game opens up with a sweeping animation of you climbing up into an attic, and finding a boxed version of Rail Racing on a table. Tap it, and you’re off to the races. You progress through a series of races set in different locations, the first being a child’s bedroom. You race against six other cars and provided you finish in the top three, are awarded the corresponding amount of stars, plus some in-game currency.
Controlling your car is similar to racing a real slot car, in that you have an accelerator and no brake. Take your finger off the button and the car slows down. There is a key difference here, as you’ve also got a left and right arrow to tap, which will send your car leaping to another slot on the track. Real slot racing is a single lane affair which needs practice and a steady accelerator finger to make progress and overtake, but that would be needlessly tedious in a mobile game, so this addition makes perfect sense.
The first levels sees you driving old cars, in this case a dodgy jalopy which performs better than it looks. The tracks weave, twist and even loop-the-loop, and if you simply keep your finger on the throttle through the tight turns, you’ll slip into the outside lane and lose valuable speed. Despite the slight changes, you’ll still need to be careful to win races in Rail Racing. Your opponents drive well too, and catching the faster cars later on takes work.
Tracks have green strips which give you a speed boost, red strips to slow you down, and letters which spell out EXTRA (a nod to many an old arcade game) to collect. The frequency and effectiveness of these can be tweaked using real money through in-app purchases, as can giving you car a one-time upgrade for more grip, but these aren’t essential to playing the game.
Tactics come into play too, as you can “tackle” other cars by changing lanes at just the right moment, and block the path of faster cars at opportune moments. This can work against you though, as chasing down a car lets you drive in their slipstream, giving you enough extra speed to zip past. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, particularly in the tight corners, and find yourself down in sixth place, but you’re never out of contention and it’s quick to get back into the fight.
As you win more races, your wallet gets filled with coins, and by visiting the shop – awkwardly found only on the menu page and not in-game – you can buy new vehicles. there are sixteen in all, and although they’re all different enough to make it worthwhile buying them, there’s no way to upgrade them with new parts as you progress. You can add different paint and customise the look with stickers though.
Rail Racing is great to play, and really exciting, as it’s rare for a race to be an easy win. Most of the time it’s fractions between first and third place, so even if you’re ranked outside a points scoring place, the drive (sorry) is there to give it another try. The slot-swapping takes practice to get right, and learning the tracks makes a real difference. There’s plenty of staying power in Rail Racing, and it’s one of the best slot car games we’ve played.
The game costs £0.69 and is compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad, and as we mentioned earlier, although there are a few in-app purchases, you can play the game without using them. We did encounter a few problems logging into Game Center, but otherwise it played and performed flawlessly. We think Polarbit has another racing hit on its hands.