Skip to main content

Impossible Road review

Roll with it.

70 points. Seventy! I grip my iPad mini as if clutching a rare and precious artefact, my heart just about ready to punch through my ribcage. I'm elated, relieved - perhaps even a little proud. But a nagging question remains: am I actually enjoying myself?

Kevin Ng's latest iOS venture is redolent of several games. The developer cites Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer as an inspiration, but it reminds me equally of Super Monkey Ball (despite the fact that it's not super and there are no monkeys in it) and Mario Kart's Rainbow Road, if Miyamoto had a penchant for monochromatic minimalism.

The Monkey Ball comparison is mostly down to the vessel you're controlling, a pristine white sphere that you need similar dexterity to guide without plunging into its endless void. It's also there in the way you can speed your route to the next checkpoint - the most recent gate you pass represents your score - through perfect bounces as well as nimble steering.

As for Rainbow Road, it's the way this barrier-free track winds its way through space, twisting, banking, narrowing, plunging, like a glistening, geometrically perfect river carving down an invisible mountain. It's an artificial miracle, the kind of creation you'd marvel at if only you didn't have to negotiate the bloody thing.

Because there's one other thing Impossible Road has in common with those two: it's hard. In fact, it's so hard it makes Rainbow Road look like Mario Circuit. It makes Master Level 3 on Super Monkey Ball look like a walk in the park. Super Hexagon? A pussycat by comparison.

The soundtrack comprises a few pulsing, percussive numbers that are as minimalistic as the visuals. They're a solid fit, but hardly as memorable as Super Hexagon's themes.

That paragraph alone will likely convince a few to slap down their £1.49 on the App Store's virtual counter. As soon as a game arrives boasting a fearsome challenge - and Impossible Road is bold enough to pronounce its approximate difficulty level in its title - there are some who see that as an invitation to crack their knuckles and devote the next few days or weeks to tackling it head-on.

Is that enough? At times, I'd be inclined to think so. That cliff-face challenge is responsible for moments of sphincter-squeaking terror as you teeter on the brink of a curve, a single tap of the screen away from instant disaster. There are moments of giddy exhilaration as you somehow manage to recover from an errant bounce, the track rushing up to meet you as you touch down just before everything fades to white and your journey ends.

But there are moments when you'll fall, for too long and yet not long enough. Unlike Super Hexagon, restarts are not instantaneous, because often you'll have to wait for the void to claim you in its alabaster embrace, even though there's no hope of redemption. At other times, you'll be within touching distance of the track, only to see the game over screen because you were in the air a split-second too long. An update has resolved that issue in part - you can now double-tap your score to restart, though it won't record your score if you do - but it doesn't alleviate the frustration at coming off a piece of track where you've no chance of landing safely. Your margin for error during these sections is uncomfortably close to zero for my liking.

You'll play on, of course, as I did (and still am doing), even as you reach the stage where you begin to resent its very existence. 'AGAIN?' you'll be asked, in that cold, detached, uncaring typeface, and you'll respond with an affirmative tap, as you once more hurtle down a track you will never, ever see the end of.

7 / 10

Read this next