Bike Race (iOS) review

Bike Race is an iOS game from Top Free Games. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and, due to its Facebook connectivity, has also been showing up in the Top Gainers charts for Facebook games for the last few weeks, with 3,100,000 monthly active users to its name.

Bike Race is essentially a new iOS adaptation of the physics-based motorcycle stunt racing games that have been popular on the open Web for many years now. Players take control of a motocross racer and may control the bike by pressing and holding on the right half of the screen; braking may be achieved by pressing and holding on the left. When in the air, the bike’s rotation may be controlled by tilting the device to the left and right. Accelerometer-based controls are difficult to get right, but Bike Race strikes a good balance between sensitivity and allowing the player to maintain control while continuing to hold their device naturally.

Levels are simply presented, with a themed backdrop for each set of levels overlaid with a simple, line-based representation of the track, which tends to include hills, valleys, jumps and even loop-the-loops. Players must take full advantage of the game’s physics model to negotiate the track as quickly as possible — if this means taking a particularly large jump to leap over a time-consuming loop-the-loop rather than performing the stunt, so be it. Upon completing a level, players are given a rating between one and three stars according to how quickly they completed it, and are then able to either retry or advance to the next level.

Where Bike Race’s enduring popularity stems from is the multiplayer mode than opens up after a few single player levels have been completed, however. By either connecting with Facebook friends or random opponents, players may compete in asynchronous competitions against other players from around the world in an attempt to prove their supremacy. Competitions unfold in a turn-based manner — the challenging player sets a time on a track, then their opponent has three opportunities to beat that time. Play then continues passing back and forth between them until one of the two players’ three chances is eliminated, at which point a winner is declared. It’s a simple but effective model, and one that keeps people coming back for more. The ability for players to compete against random strangers as well as their friends means that there is always someone to play against — particularly with the number of Facebook user figures the game is reporting.

The game monetizes in several ways. Different bikes may be unlocked by fulfilling specific conditions in the game, or acquired early with in-app purchases. It’s also possible to purchase a “Kids Mode” or “Super Bike,” which makes the rider considerably more sturdy and able to stand up to crashes better — and those who are struggling in multiplayer can even buy additional retries. These elements have something of an air of “pay to win” about them, which is a little disappointing — particularly given the price of the “Super Bike” — but skilled players will likely be able to achieve victory through superior technique.

Bike Race is a good game with well-implemented social play. Its presentation is simple but effective, and the ads in its free incarnation are unobtrusive. It carries no risk for players to download and try for themselves — those who enjoy it may wish to invest some money into the in-app purchases, while others will be happy to continue as a non-paying player. The game caters well to both, making it an ideal mobile game for the modern social generation.

Play

Solid — if well-worn — gameplay combined with a good implementation of asynchronous social play make the popularity of this title more than justified.

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