We review a mobile game every week, and we almost always focus on ones that we either like or that have a high profile. That might give an unrealistic portrayal of the general quality level of mobile games. Go look at the App Store or Google Play: Most games are trash. Cheaply produced rip-offs and low quality tie-ins abound. Case in point: John Cena’s Fast Lane, a racing(-ish) game starring World Wrestling Entertainment Champion John Cena. If you ever want to see how bad mobile games can be, here’s a solid choice.
John Cena’s Fast Lane isn’t actually a racing game. It’s a gear-shifting game. You don’t control the car’s speed. You don’t control the direction, although every track is a straight line, so there’s no direction to control, anyway. All you do is shift gears. There’s an on-screen gas pedal you can tap before a race starts for an immediate speed boost, but once the race starts all you do is stare at a meter until a certain light flashes and then tap a button to shift gears.
After a few races you will meet an opponent you simply can’t beat until you upgrade your car. The game will send you to the garage, and if you’re playing on an iPad 2 like I was, it will probably crash on the way. After reloading the game you can spend in-game money to upgrade your car’s engine, transmission or tires. Each limb on this meager stat tree is locked out for a few hours after you buy an upgrade, so you can’t blitz through a few dozen races in a couple of hours and buy the best possible engine. There’s also a gas meter that can be refilled with in-game money. If it runs out, and you can’t afford to refill it, you can’t play the game for a while. It’s doing you a favor.
You get money by winning races, or, if you have absolutely no self-respect and hate everything right and just about the world, you can pay real human money for fake John Cena Fast Lane money. Between the timed lock-outs, the small amount of money earned in races and the sheer mind-numbing repetition of actually playing the game, those real dollar in-app purchases might actually seem like a good idea to whatever curious individual is dedicated to experiencing the totality of John Cena’s Fast Lane. As always, make sure your kids don’t know how to spend money on your iPad.
John Cena’s Fast Lane combines the worst qualities of mobile gaming into a single small package. It’s a “free” game that guides players towards spending real-life money for limited in-game advantage. It counts on the recognizable license of John Cena and the popularity of Fast & Furious-style street racing to attract players despite that license having absolutely nothing to do with street racing. (Maybe John Cena should star in a wrestling game? Or maybe a game about designing jorts and t-shirts?) It’s a cheap, ugly game that crashes regularly. Sadly most mobile games are closer to John Cena’s Fast Lane in quality than games like Rymdkapsel or Badland, which is why we make sure to point out the good games amid the dross every week.
John Cena’s Fast Lane
Developer: World Wrestling Entertainment
Release Date: 08/12/13