‘Rock(s) Rider’ Review: It Totally Rocks

ECA-Games’s motorcycle stunt racing title – Rock(s) Rider (out now, $0.99) – is a physics based puzzle game that will test the upper limits of your patience, but for some of you will be the best thing ever. It has a combination of extremely impressive graphics, the likes of which easily keep par with any game seen on current era dedicated gaming handhelds, and features easy to use controls that function flawlessly. For those of you who are familiar with the Xbox Live Arcade title – Trials HD – you pretty much already know exactly what to expect from Rock(s) Rider, the remainder of you are going to want to read the rest of this review very carefully before you consider buying this.

The first thing you need to do when playing this game is to choose a control scheme, of which there are a wide plethora of options available, to find the one that best suits you. I myself recommend a setup that involves a slider on the left, as well as forward and reverse buttons on the right, but be sure to go with whatever works best for your play style. Thankfully – once you do find a control scheme that you like – you will never again have to look at the configuration menu afterwards, as I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a more confusing and unexplanatory settings menu in my life. With your preferred control scheme locked down, you will then select either a male or female driver – with the chief difference between the two being the sounds of agony your character makes when you have an accident – before you finally begin playing the game proper.

Although you can make your motorcycle go forward or in reverse, and control how far forwards or backwards your driver leans, I want to say right here and now that this is not a trick performing game based on freedom like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Every jump you find inside these indoors obstacle courses of death – many of which involve you back flipping onto a platform situated both above and behind you – are designed for you to not be able to make it unless you do exactly what the developer intended, making this more of a puzzle game than a traditional racing game. There is always some sort of low hanging pipe, construction beam, or inexplicably placed jet flame to ensure that you will fail every single jump on your first attempt, ending up in you going back to the most recent check point. I should also like to point out that, as the game goes on, there will usually be 3 or 4 convoluted jumps in a row that need to be performed successfully before you reach the next checkpoint.

Finishing a course will award you a pot of prize money, with a certain amount of money being deducted from the prize pot for each and every time you manage to break your racer’s neck (I guess cloning is expensive). You will get even more money if you manage to complete the track under special target conditions, such as being really fast or never having any accidents in the process. Truly adventurous players, using their in game earnings as collateral, can even accept bets from in game NPCs that doubt the player can manage to finish a track under specific conditions.

While Rock(s) Rider does feature an online leader board to let players know who has the most in game winnings currently on hand, the money earned in the game doesn’t let the player get upgrades or new outfits of any kind. Items of that sort will either be found in awkward to reach places that are well off the beaten path, or won from NPCs by beating them in a perfection demanding timed race. The most curious of these items that can be found is the sliding kit, which essentially ads grinding bars to the motorcycle so that you can do upside down slides and other tricks with it that were otherwise previously impossible.

As with most games that support iOS’ Game Center feature, there also exists a bevy of various achievements that players of Rock(s) Rider can unlock by successfully hitting gameplay milestones. For the most part these are the standard things any gamer would expect from such a feature, such as managing to maintain a wholly unnecessary wheelie for a lengthy period of time without killing yourself in the process. There is – however – also one particularly inglorious achievement entitled Massacre, which essentially recognizes a player for failing far too many times in a single course run.

With the gameplay of Rock(s) Rider now out of the way, I want to reiterate what I said much earlier: this game’s 3D graphics look absolutely phenomenal. The indoor stunt tracks, the motorcycles, the neon signs along the way that point to where you’re supposed to go, the pyrotechnic showers that occur when you cross a checkpoint or hit the finish line, they all look impressively realistic for an iOS game. The only minor complaint one could raise against the appearance of the game itself is that – unlike in the more well known Trials HD – your rider is still rigidly locked on to your motorcycle whenever you manage to snap his or her neck, rather than being shown tumbling off in a more realistic rag doll fashion.

iFanzine Verdict: For those of you who are looking for a portable version of XBLA’s Trials HD, Rock(s) Rider is a game that performs in every last way you could possibly want. It provides a series of tricky physics based puzzle like challenges, coupled with amazing 3D graphics and highly functional controls. Hopefully a future update will give the game’s configuration menus a much needed overhaul, since they are positively confounding as they currently stand. For the rest of you out there, the game’s unyielding demands that everything be solved exclusively through rote memorization will mean this game has maximized frustration value.