Pretty much every genre on the iphone has been pretty well covered, but, for my money at least, the non-wheeled hover racer hasn’t yet found its champion.
Sure, there have been WipEout clones such as Low Grav Racer, amongst others, but the definitive article hasn’t made its way to the starting line.
Ground Effect could be that game.
Its pedigree is impeccable. Created by Glenn Corpes, the legendary coder of Bullfrog and EA UK games in the 1990s, it looks great, and the accelerometer controls are a delicate combination of solid and sensitive. You also have touch buttons on the right hand side of the screen for brake and boost.
In fact, my only concern is that the difficulty level might be too high.
The set up is simple. You race an Ekranoplan, or a low flying seaplane that uses a compressed cushion of air – the ground effect – to skim across the water and over small outcrops of land.
There are 12 levels to race around, and you have to unlock them in turn by coming third or better in races that consist of seven competing craft.
The courses are well designed, with a mixture of twisting turns, long straights to boost down and plenty of jumps. They are fairly linear, however, as you have to fly through indicated waypoints, whereupon new waypoints are illuminated, and so on.
As with the best racing games, it takes time to learn the best routes inbetween each waypoint – something levels such as the devilish fourth really encourage.
Unlike the others, it’s non-linear. The twist is that the first time you attempt to make your way through the maze of islands, you’ll likely to crash in a ball of flame into rock faces too tall for you to fly over. Of course, you could take the easy route and just fly around the islands, but that’s boring and you won’t ever unlock the next level.
Gameplay aside, however, what’s really great about Ground Effect is just zooming around over the top of the water and islands and then making an inch perfect banking turn to squeeze through the waypoint and shave a tenth of a second off your best lap time.
Like WipEout, the best levels become somewhat Zen-like.
Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on the release build, which luckily should be due any day now.