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Mobile Game of the Week: Repulze (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: <i>Repulze</i> (iOS)

Repulze
Platform: iOS
Developer: Pixelbite Games
Release Date: 1/3/12
Price: $0.99

When you’re driving a car green means go, red means stop and yellow doesn’t really mean a damn thing. When you’re driving some kind of futuristic hovercraft, that all flies right out the window and splatters all over the highway, at least according to Repulze. (Do futuristic hovercrafts even have windows?) In this Wipeout-ish racer you guide a super-science space car through red and green energy gates to boost your speed, build up your boost meter and finish a track as quickly as possible.

The polarity flips after hitting three gates of the same color in a row, so notions of stopping and going are in a constant state of flux. When your color is red, you have to nail three red gates while weaving around the speed-killing green ones. Each red gate acts as an accelerant, and hitting three will load up a massive speed boost that can be released at any point by tapping the screen. After that third red gate, though, the polarity changes to green, and now you’ll want to fly through the green gates while avoiding the red. If you want to get the best time possible you’ll have to master this constant dance between the red and the green. And successfully navigating the gates gets harder with each track, as their placement increasingly tests your maneuvering skills and leaves smaller and smaller openings to fit through.

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If you’re not into chasing leaderboards, Repulze may not be for you. It’s a single-player game, and the only goals are basically either beating your best time or unlocking every available track and vehicle. Vehicles are unlocked through experience points earned with every race. Every time you hit a new level, you unlock a new hovercraft. Tracks are unlocked by collecting badges, which are earned by completing one of the three same goal types found with every track—beating a preset time, collecting a specific number of boosts, or completing a track without incurring a certain number of collisions. And that’s collisions against the track walls, as, again, this is a single-player game, with no other racers on the track. You’ll accomplish the second goal on the first try for almost every track if you are even remotely capable of alternating between the red and green gates. The third goal can always be easily met if you intentionally drive slowly and stick to the center. That first goal will forever be a challenge, though, as successfully combining both speed and safe driving is complicated by the twisting, convoluted tracks. The game almost feels imbalanced, considering how hard it is to hit those time thresholds—it took me over twenty races just to ace the first track.

Part of that difficulty can be racked up to the controls. You hold your tablet or phone landscape-style and move your craft with two on-screen buttons on the bottom left and right of the screen. As often happens with touch-screen games, the lack of tactile response can make it difficult to grasp exactly how much pressure is needed at any juncture. You might hold the button down too long and crash into the wall, or let go too quickly and hit the green gate instead of the red. Sometimes you might accidentally hold both buttons down at the same time. You’ll eventually acclimate, but the controls just can’t compete with a physical controller. Despite those limitations, Repulze is a well-crafted and compulsively playable entry in the futuristic racer genre.