Review: Race the Stig
The problem is this. Anyone from the older generation will know that games that tie-in to major media properties are, as a general rule, a bit rubbish. While there are notable exceptions (I'm looking at the original 8-bit versions of Robocop here), if it's a movie or a TV show, it's not going to be any good. And now I have to review Top Gear's 'Race The Stig'.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Does this rule of thumb hold over into the modern smartphone and mobile game world? Unfortunately it does. Yes there are notable exceptions where the games just about come up to the grade (Gameloft's Minion Rush springs to mind), but if you hand me a game to review that I can find on an Electronic Program Guide, I know the bar is set very low.
Top Gear's Race The Stig game doesn't even clear that bar.
Actually, Minion Rush is a good touchstone, because the games share a lot of the same design cues. Just like the Despicable Me themed game, Race the Stig is an 'infinite running' game where you have to avoid the obstacles for as long as possible. One crash and it's game over. In the Top Gear world, you are being 'chased' by The Stig and need to stay ahead of him, but when The Stig never once manages an overtake unless you crash, the story that holds the game together fails. This is a tame racing driver, who lives for speed, and you can outrun him in the Diesel/Electric DIY kit-car called Geoff?
So the basic presentation of the game is flawed. It does feel like the developers needed to shoehorn the game into a pre-existing model of 'you get caught when you crash' (see Subway Surfers). In the same vein, there is a daily challenge to complete (grab three 'cogs' which look rather like the one in the Top Gear logo), and golden nuts to pickup as you drive along, which act as a currency to unlock extra cars, improve the power of the boosts that you drive over, or give you a single-game temporary advantage in key areas such as a score multiplier, protection from a single impact, or to buy a 'mystery prize'.
In other words, everything that you would expect from a generic infinite runner game can be found here, with a currency that you can collect in the game, buy more of through an in-app purchase, or buy a permanent 'doubler' so you can collect more golden nuts in the game. But none of this is done with any flair or expectation.
There are two ways to make a really good infinite runner game. The first is to bring something unique to the genre, that can help you stand out from the crowd. Race the Stig does not manage that. The second is to take all the generic things that are expected, and do them with a high degree of inventiveness and heart. Race the Stig does not manage that either.
I know it sounds just like something the Top Gear team would say, but I would feel a lot more comfortable with this game if everything moved... a lot faster [see what I did there in the edit? - Ed]. The handling of the cars is poor, and while I can see that I can jump the car up and switch lanes in one move, it's all very clunky and there is no grace or precision to the controls. You either get the timing just right when trying to do two moves one after the other (such as moving between two lanes) or the second one is ignored and you crash. There should be more of a buffer or memory of moves you make.
And why are cars able to jump and squat without any hint of why they are able to do that? Is it just to fit them into the pre-defined game code?
Top Gear says to me speed. It says recklessness, it says balancing on the edge of a power slide, of humour, of common decency and politeness. Race The Stig has none of these things. It's a poor implementation of an infinite runner, it's a waste of a brand name, and Windows Phone users deserve more.
It's such a shame that by carrying the Top Gear name, it's probably going to be insanely popular. And on that bombshell...
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at