CarDust ($1.99) by Spectrum Entertainment is a crazy racing game that is extremely gratifying and frustrating, depending on the race. Similar to the recent Retro Racing from Mr. Qwak, this game is played in portrait mode (perfect for on-the-go gaming).
CarDust is all about full contact racing. Your goal is to leave your opponents in the dust, whether you are racing against the computer or your own ghost. The game somewhat simplifies the racing aspect, as your car auto-accelerates, but the slippery physics make everything seem way too difficult.
First, the one control scheme that is available is not exactly intuitive. Three buttons appear on screen (with a fourth appearing when you have power ups), two for turning on the left and right, and one in the middle for braking. This setup feels really clunky overall. It would be nice to see a few alternative control schemes available.
Apart from the controls, the other negative aspect of this game is its physics. For one thing, Spectrum Entertainment put some effort into the physics. Of the six cars available, each has different stats – like weight, grip, and speed – that affect how it drives. But when put into play, everything feels too rigid. Turning is stiff, and your car seems to strafe across the road, almost always ending up stuck or spun around on a wall. Furthermore, there is no driving off the track in this game. You are either completely on the track, or you are stuck in a wall.
If you can get over the clunky controls and bad physics, the game has a few highlights. Three different game modes are available, including quick race, time trial, and tournament. Quick race is a simple, one race event where you can choose one of the five tracks to race on and set the number of opponents from one to five. Time trial is you against the clock (and your ghost). Tournament mode is a competition to see who can earn the most points over four tracks.
The variety of game modes, along with the implementation of leaderboards and achievements (through OpenFeint), adds to the replay value of the game. Also, you can switch between easy and hard difficulty, depending on whether or not you want obstacles.
All things considered, CarDust is a mediocre racing title. While it has features like power sliding and portrait mode play, it doesn’t feel like a polished title. Some improvements I would like to see are better physics, Game Center integration, alternative controls, and possibly online multiplayer. All of these things would improve CarDust by leaps and bounds. Until an update hits, if you are looking for a solid racing game, you would be better off sticking with titles like Reckless Racing or Retro Racing.