I’m generally not too big a fan of racers on the iOS. Even on console platforms, racers have almost always seemed a little dull after getting addicted to Kinetica on the PS2, and wasting a good 200+ hours of my life playing it. But there are a few that have that special spark that makes them stand out above the crowd. QuBIT, Protoxide, jAggy Race… and now I can add one more racing title to that very small list of mine; AXL: Full Boost, developed by SpinVector, an Italy based, 15-person studio who’ve won numerous awards. Now developing titles for the iOS, AXL: Full Boost is their second iOS title, the first being the award-winning BANG! With 10+ years of experience under the belt, it’s no surprise that at first glance, AXL looks amazing. But, as with other games that look amazing, the gameplay that lies underneath all the special glitz and glamour can make or break the game.
Using technology developed by another Italian company, Raylight, AXL: Full Boost stands out by including orbs into the racing. These orbs can either be used to boost your racer, reaching insane speeds, or you can use them to take advantage of power-ups found throughout the tracks. The catch is, when you use these orbs, they’re left behind you, giving your opponents the opportunity to pick them up, and use them themselves, adding an extra little layer of strategy to the gameplay.
The technology also allows for Quick-Time Events. This is used for very sharp turns within the game. Whenever a sharp turn is coming up, an icon appears on the center of the screen, letting you know which direction you’ll be turning. When this does pop up, you’re able to twitch your device in that direction, and have your racer attach itself to a track within the turn, letting you keep up your high speed racing, and focus entirely on the racing and orb collecting/strategic aspects of the game.
Looking at the screen-shots for AXL, it’s very clear that the graphics for the game are top-notch. The futuristic, clean, smooth, minimal look of all the buildings and racers definitely creates an intriguing atmosphere. Also pretty noticeable is the draw-distance. In most iOS games this is usually pretty short, but with AXL, the minimalistic graphics help to allow the developers to make the draw distance fairly large, which is a huge plus, and something that I hope is taken advantage of more within the genre.
Once you get into the game, you’ll notice that not only do the graphics stand-out, but the automations are also fantastic as well, drawing you into the game even more. One of my favorite animations in the game is when you break, and get ready to boost, and your whole racer changes shape. It definitely adds to the feeling as well as style of the game.
Like a lot of other racers out there, there is a story intertwined with the game. In 2099, the environment collapsed, and humanity needed to find a new energy source, in 2123, HEX a new form of renewable energy was found. In 2150, Shifters, shape changing racers, were built using HEX, and after that, large corporations create newer and better Shifters, and the AXL Division of racing is established. This is where the game starts.
At the beginning, like most racers, you’re only able to choose between one Shifter, and have to go through training missions before getting into the real gameplay. You also find out that you’re responsible for the loss of 55 Pan-American engineers. You were expelled from Rotco Global Defense Corporation, and have been sentenced to 4 years of civil labor. Later, found with contraband, you’re currently waiting for sentencing from the courts. Ikuma Energetics, a racing company that has scouted you out, has the power to suspend any criminal proceedings for the duration of your apprenticeship. Lucky you, you get to race Shifters.
There is loads of content within the game, 3 different modes; Starcade (or Story/Carrer Mode), Free Run, and Custom Race. As you progress through Starcade Mode, more tracks, and more Shifters will become available to you, there are 12 total, each having different statistics. Starcade Mode offers up 71 different races spread across 7 different locations. Free Run lets you practice on any one of the tracks that you’ve already reached, and Custom lets you race against however many opponents you want, and lets you decide if there’s power-ups included or not, as well as which track you race on.
In the options, you’re able to adjust the Effects, and Music volumes, as well as change the view from First Person, Near or Far views, and adjust the sensitivity. Unfortunately, there is only a tilt control scheme, which really does have an effect on the gameplay. Even though you can adjust the sensitivity, until you get comfortable with the controls, more often than not, you’ll find yourself bouncing from wall to wall, which effects you more than you might like. With the Quick Time Events included in the tracks, you need to be going full speed to use them, which means that you can not accidentally touch the wall of the track, and need to have an orb for boosting right before it, which can result in your Shifter smashing right into the wall of the turn. Without orbs for boosting right before the QTE turns, you’ll need to take the sharp turn on your own, which almost always results in bouncing off the walls even more. But if you have the patience and determination to stick with it, and most likely play track more than once so that you can learn them, the controls become less and less of an issue as you make your way through the game.
Running at a smooth 60FPS, even on my 4th GEN Touch, which, with each passing week, is becoming more and more obsolete, and has fantastic tracks, amazing graphics and animations and great music and effects, with outstanding stand-out of the crowd mechanics with the orbs, power-ups, and turns. There are also 24 achievements, and 14 leader boards included in GameCenter, which definitely adds to the replay value, which is, of course, already fairly high. Sadly, the game is not Universal, which means you’ll be playing it in 2X mode if you’ve got an iPad. AXL: Full Boost is priced at $2.99, which is a fantastic price. Fans of the genre should definitely pick this up. It stands out in a genre full of like-minded titles, offers loads of content and basically endless replay value. It could very well wind up being the best racer available for the iOS, maybe even one of the best racers available on any gaming platform.