When video games call for criminal behaviour, I try to portray the bandit with a heart of gold. Running innocents off the road delivers neither a thrill nor a punchline in something like Grand Theft Auto. In fact, I take it as a sign of my own terrible driving.
All of that is on display in Reckless Getaway by Polarbit/Pixelbite, (for all iOS devices) which puts you behind the floaty wheel of a 1970s muscle car trying to beat the law to the state line. Ultimately, I found the challenge of keeping my driving clean too strong, and the fun of letting it get messy a little weak.
Reckless Getaway‘s big issue is the lack of speed control. You can manipulate it only with a boost power-up. Otherwise, your only concern is swerving left or right. It’s a simple enough design, but as the traffic ahead is always too slow, and the cops behind are always too fast, that leaves just left and right to make your getaway, and unfortunately the handling is too sloppy.
Ducking out into oncoming traffic is a good way to lure the fuzz to their doom but you are just as apt to get walloped by an oncoming semi as they are, if not more. Slipping through traffic on the right side is a little easier, but the cops come straight from the video game police academy, which means severe rubber banding and laser-guided PIT manoeuvres to get you loose and knock you off the road. You can use their aggression against them, but it takes a lot of nerve.
In terms of handling, it’s easy to see why Pixelbite made things so swervy. You’re supposed to be driving like a classic movie getaway, missing only the banjo accompaniment and losing more hubcaps than you have wheels. Crossing the centre median puts you in a hard fishtail once you land on pavement. The slightest touch left or right sets you on a suspension-bouncing, tire-barking lane change. It’s impossible to drive precisely, which is probably the point.
Advancing in Reckless Getaway is easy enough; I never ran out of lives before finishing a race. But later stages (there are 16 in all) are unlocked once you reach a star total for each level (one to four), and crashes inflict the most penalty on that rating. I likewise never finished a run without a wipeout and I didn’t really appreciate having so much of this game’s content held aside until I beat an arbitrary performance goal.
Along the way, you’re encouraged to pick up coins for score boosts and power-ups that give you a jump, a short speed burst, and a very useful pulse weapon that pushes all vehicles out of your way.
My problem may have been that I was driving a little too considerately; when you start pushing minivans and sedans off the road your score total climbs faster. Success depends on you shelving your conscience and creating a lot of widows and orphans on your hellish evening commute.
For a $2.99 game I would have appreciated at least one more mode of play, maybe an endless chase or a timed run that presented an alternative to the grind to acquire stars and see a fresh set of runs. As it is, by the time I’d retried the fifth getaway and two-starred it for the fifth time (and you need an average of three stars to pass), I was ready to come out with my hands over my head.
Reckless Getaway [iTunes]