Cracking Sands, a combat kart racer from Polarbit, is now available from the app store. Featuring lots of customization options, multiple race types, and online multiplayer, Cracking Sands has a lot going for it, but the gameplay just isn’t all that compelling.
Cracking Sands Pros:
- Stylish graphics and terrific track design
- Soundtrack is arcade-y
- Controls utilize tilt for steering and buttons for other actions
- Multiple race types and lots of customizations to apply
- GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements
Cracking Sands Cons:
- Weapons and nitro pull from same fuel source
- No touch steering option
- Upgrades/enhancements are expensive
- Course navigation is difficult
Cracking Sands has a strong Death Rally vibe, as you duke it out with a half-dozen racers to see who can reach the finish line first. In addition to pimping your ride with character customizations and vehicular enhancements, you also equip them with weapons like rocket launchers and machine guns that allow you to slow your opponents in order to sneak by and take the checkered flag. The game provides both a Single Player Campaign and online Multiplayer. There are 9 cups in which to compete, with a half-dozen races in each cup. Race types include race, elimination, head of the pack, and time trial. Race and time trial are pretty self-explanatory, while elimination occasionally drops the racer farthest from the lead until only one remains, and head of the pack rewards the leader with one point for every 5 seconds that he holds that lead. The first person to 10 points wins. As you race, you charge an energy meter that allows you to fire your weapon and perform nitro boosts. Using the same meter to fuel both items is a little problematic, as it forces you to try to find an appropriate balance that works for you. The meter drains very quickly, though you can refill by collecting fuel cells on the track or running over a refill pad that maxes out your energy. Coins collected on the track and earned by placing high on the race leaderboards are used to purchase your upgrades and enhancements. Completing cups allows you to unlock Single Race options, too.
Race track design is fantastic, with each having its own look and feel. Various points on the track branch into multiple pathways, offering different ways to run the same course and possibilities to shortcut ahead of a competitor. The tracks and backgrounds are a bit busy, obscuring some points where a crumbled track may drop your racer into a river below or cause you to crash into a huge pothole. Finding your way around the course can at times be a challenge, too, as it’s not always evident where the actual track is. Fancy effects and foreground objects can also obscure your view of the track. The overall speed of the racers is a bit slow, even with the nitro burst. If you manage to grab the lead, it’s not too difficult to maintain, but catching up once you’ve fallen behind can be a chore. The soundtrack has a cool arcade-y vibe, which works for this type of game. Controls utilize only the accelerometer for steering with no option for touch steering controls. While serviceable, it would be nice to see how things would work with an alternative method, as we found it a bit touchy to use. There are also dedicated buttons for jump, nitro, and your various attacks. The jump button allows you to hop over obstacles and gaps, snagging hovering coins and fuel cells while avoiding gaps. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to judge field depth and jump power, causing us to miss most of the airborne items.
Replay value is ok, though the game just isn’t as fun and compelling as we’d hoped. The inability to destroy other racers or at least cause them to undergo a time-consuming reset is disappointing. Shooting at them from behind and slowing them down usually results in a rear-end collision, which doesn’t really allow us to gain any ground. Coins aren’t earned at a very generous rate either, so saving up for upgrades may require running cups several times over in order to get enhancements that might make the game more exciting. Multiplayer opponents are a bit hard to come by at this time, likely due to the hefty price tag. GameCenter integration does provide leaderboards and achievements. A universal app for $4.99, Cracking Sands earns a 3.5-Dimple score.
Cracking Sands Review,