Jul 5, 2011

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Review: Riptide GP

Review: Riptide GP

You hear the phrase all the time, “this game brings a console experience to your mobile device,” but few games can actually back up that statement. Riptide GP, on the other hand, is one of those mobile games that can. Developed by Vector Unit, Riptide GP is a Jet Ski racer that features some pretty amazing water physics and graphics that I’ve yet to see on Android devices.  With simple tilt controls, various modes, and impressive gameplay, Riptide is definitely a racing game that showcases the power of the Tegra 2 chip.

I know, graphics aren’t everything, but when a game looks this good on an Android phone/tablet it definitely deserves some high praise. The water effects, the environments, the jet skis, they all look really good. What is more impressive are the water effects. Unlike some other water-based games you might play, the water physics in Riptide GP seem incredibly realistic. The racers in front of you will create a wake, which causes some waves to form on the track. Not only does it look realistic, but it changes the gameplay.

With water-based racing games like Riptide, if the water physics are bad, than so is the game. You can’t have a jet ski racing game that feels like you are simply driving a car in the rain. Riptide’s water physics brings a level of realism that makes the gameplay so great. For instance, if you ride in a rider’s wake, then you can easily control your jet ski, but if you make a mistake and try to go through the wake, you’ll end up losing control because you’ll hit a wave. On the flip side, if you are in first place, then you’ll experience calmer waters, so you don’t have to contend with the wakes of the other riders.

Another example of how the physics adds to the excellent gameplay is the jumps. Since the game features the ability to pull off tricks, there are instances where there will be big waves to hit to grab some air, but again the physics of the game might make you want to skip some of those jumps, especially because when you land, you’ll sink down into the water. So even though tricks give you the ability to boost, choosing not to jump and maintaining your speed on the water can sometimes be the better choice.

Like any other racing game, if the vehicles and controls are bad then the great physics engine won’t really matter. Luckily, Riptide features very simple tilt controls and enough vehicles to keep things interesting. Riptide’s features great tilt controls and actually make you feel like you have complete control over the jet ski. The auto-accelerate option is also a nice touch because then all you have to do is concentrate on steering and braking.  In terms of vehicles, there are six different vehicles to choose from, and you will unlock them as you play through the game. Each vehicle has a specific attribute, like better handling but less speed or higher top speed but less acceleration. I did find that some jet skis are better for certain levels, but for me the best one to use always seemed to be the one with a high top speed.

Using boost and pulling off tricks is also pretty simple. Activating boost only requires you to touch the top corner of the screen, and tricks are simple gestures like using both thumbs and swiping inward or up and down or left and right. At first I thought pulling off tricks, which net you extra boost, would be pretty difficult while steering, but it’s actually quite simple, and after a few laps I was able to pull off every trick. I will say that having to pull off tricks to gain boost is a nice addition, but I think it would be nice if there was more done with the tricks, like having scores or multipliers.