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Cracking Sands Review

By Andrew Nesvadba, on January 24, 2013


Cracking Sands
Download on the AppStore
Rating

PROS

  • Mario Kart-a-like concept, but with its own twist; energy defines everything you do.
  • Plenty of gadgets and vehicles/upgrades to play with.

CONS

  • Drifting mechanic haphazard in its deployment; tilt gesture takes some getting used to and even then isn't a solid thing.
  • Clever stage design let down by the otherwise dated presentation; possibly a concession to older iDevices.

VERDICT

Cracking Sands manages to walk a tight line of balance between giving players too much self-sufficiency and not enough variety. At times it stumbles, but as a Kart-a-like racer it still manages to capture the fun of the genre.


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Going solo isn't always easy, especially when a major success like Reckless Racing 2 is under your belt. Polarbit and Pixelbite made a wonderful team and the end result was a racer that may still defining the high-water mark for the top-down racing genre. Recently Pixelbite made a small splash with Repulze, but something was missing - it lacked a sense of whimsy. Now, Polarbit releases their own racer, Cracking Sands, and while the concept is fun and calls upon the shade of Mario Kart, it lacks refinement in its execution.

In fact, if we use Mario Kart as the starting point for explaining how Cracking Sands works, this will take less time. Ultimately a player's driving skills only count for half of their success. Each vehicle is equipped with on-demand nitro boosts, as well as gadgets of the offensive, defensive and utilitarian variety - there are no random power-ups to worry about; no mystical blue-shells robbing you of victory.

Instead you'll have to manage your vehicle's power by collecting batteries of various sizes scattered around the level while avoiding the mayhem of the vehicles around you. When everything is crashing and bashing together on the wonderfully complex and multi-pathed stages, this works out to be a perfect system... but should you get a break-away moment, all the power-ups in the world won't stop you from basically sitting on your nitro and enjoying the no-sweat victory.

Of course the AI makes this harder than it sounds as it's not so much interested in winning as it is making sure _you_ don't win, but you never feel overwhelmed.

And that's really all there is to say - there are modes to unlock; vehicles to buy and upgrade; online multiplayer; and the controls are simple (if a bit loose when it comes to 'drifting'). Nothing reaches an exceptional level; from the presentation, to the gameplay itself - it's all middle of the road.

It's unfair to compare something like Cracking Sands to Reckless Racing 2 - they are, after all, entirely different games - however it's hard not to feel as though Polarbit missed a trick or two here and there. Still, it's a fun racer and one that manages to remain fun for hours, so take our lament with a grain of salt.

Screenshots

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