App of the Day: Reckless Racing 2

Advancement through technology.

The drivers' portraits in Reckless Racing 2 tell a sad tale. These drooling bumpkins and greasy villains are a dash of the redneck personality that themed the original, but in Reckless Racing 2 they're kept on the sidelines. The country tunes get a trendy remix, the ramshackle jeeps and jalopies of the original are now sleek sports cars, and what on earth's happened to the drifting?

The drifting is changed significantly from Reckless Racing, initially at least, and this affects everything. Where the original was all wild slides and pile-ups, this is much more about racing lines, cornering and tight, controlled slides.

Overall it's less rambunctious, but elements of the handling remain exaggerated - slightly overturn at a corner, for example, and the car swings suddenly in that direction. Upgrading is another new feature and also where Reckless Racing 2 begins to convince, allowing you to customise a car's style between all-out speed, balanced and drifting. If you plump for the latter, the crazy long slides suddenly start appearing again.

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Online these are the nightmare corners, where you can guarantee Joe56 is thinking of a jackknife.

Nevertheless, Reckless Racing 2 does somewhat abandon the reckless part. Though ramming opponents is still a part of the game and the collision detection is perfect, it's rarely exciting when impacts feel light and flimsy - you're shoving past rather than barrelling through.

That is a loss, but everything else about Reckless Racing 2's driving feels right. It's a stunner, too, the crisp lines and high resolution garnished with a huge range of effects. Smoke rises as tyres screech, sunbeams filter through trees and dapple the track, and mud flies as cars desperately rev for purchase.

There are three single-player modes, and Career offers a series of cups. These are four races followed by an overall ranking and a cash prize, which can be spent in the shop either to upgrade or buy new cars. This is a little grindy, because the later cups can't be entered without a car the game deems sufficient. Much better is Arcade mode - 40 bite-size missions that are each a few minutes long and vary cars and tracks. The last mode, Single Event, lets you choose the race type and track for a one-off.

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The three stats are split into three types of upgrades, so it's easy to concentrate on getting your speed high before any of those Jessie components.

Multiplayer is where it's at, though - and perhaps the only real disappointment. Polarbit has made brave and radical changes to the game itself, but multiplayer remains basic. You pick a lobby, then you race, and that's it. The races are great, but all the persistence and structure is reserved for single-player mode. It seems bizarre that what is surely the most important mode is so bare bones.

Nevertheless, Reckless Racing 2 is a beauty. The change from the ornery stylings of its predecessor is an initially jarring one, and it's arguably too slow to show why it's made them - the first half hour of Career mode drags, and racing online is pointless until you've invested a good chunk of time or money (as with everything these days, in-app purchases are available).

But the new handling model wins out. Its capacity for both subtle steering and knife-edge jerks the perfect extremes for these brash tracks. Reckless Racing 2 changes or strips out almost everything that made Reckless Racing great and rebuilds it as a better but ever-so slightly blander game. That's progress for you.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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