In the landscape of mobile racers, the futuristic sort has become a fiercely competitive niche. Some, like Repulze have carved out their own identity, while others like FlashOut simply look to give the well-worn formula a new home. FlashOut made no bones about its “influences,” cribbing notes from WipeOut on just about everything, from the mechanics, to the track design, to the weapons and power-ups. Nothing about FlashOut was particularly accomplished, but it stole from the best, making it one of the more notable racers of its kind on the platform. Now developer Jujubee has returned see if they can up their game with a bigger, flashier, more polished experience.
It’s clear from the jump that FlashOut isn’t a reinvention. This is still very much a WipeOut clone, and the core gameplay hasn’t changed much. This is blindingly fast, futuristic hovercraft racing on wild, winding tracks through day-glow cyberpunk cityscapes, and that’s just the way we like it. There are 10 tracks this time, based on different cities that bear little or no resemblance to their real-life counterparts. A lengthy campaign mode puts you through four different event types, which helps to add a dash of variety, especially the heated death matches, which focus on combat instead of pure speed.
The graphics have polished up nicely this time, but it’s still clear that Jujubee’s priority was frame-rate rather than complex lighting and tiny details. Better to have the scenery whiz by than to have dazzling visuals that chug along. The soundtrack is an appropriately electronic dance playlist with a heavy dubstep bent, and helps to add to the sense of speed. Although it’s still very much an independent production, Jujubee has done an admirable job of staying competitive with other products on the market. There are even some short comic book cut scenes to punctuate the boss matches, albeit with the kind of hilariously bad acting that can only happen when the person directing doesn’t speak the same language as the actors.
FlashOut handles very well. Although controller support is conspicuously absent (odd considering its inclusion in the original) there are a variety of effective options for steering, and the default tilt controls are responsive and accurate. Although there is a break button, the tracks and handling seem to be balanced such that you’ll never have to worry about it, and this becomes an exercise in steering and combat. You’ll have to deftly maneuver to hit boost pads at high speeds, and grab items as you go. Combat becomes very important, and the small arsenal of limited use items feel balanced and useful.
As you’d expect, you’ll be able to purchase new crafts and upgrades, and this becomes absolutely necessary as the game goes on. This is often a stumbling point for mobile games that want to encourage players to make pricey in-app purchases, and early versions of FlashOut 2 were criticized for this very crime. Luckily, Jujubee has been responsive in the time since, and it’s now relatively easy to earn the money needed to buy upgrades. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that these upgrades have too dramatic of an impact on a race’s outcome, which robs the game of some of its reward, as victory becomes more about patience than skill.
The inclusion of multiplayer is perhaps this sequel’s most exciting addition, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no Google Play integration, forcing you to play with randoms, and even they can be hard to find. In a particularly baffling move, you’ll have to re-purchase crafts to use in multi-player, separate from whatever you’ve already bought in the solo mode, and the net result creates the same balance issues.
FlashOut 2 marks a solid improvement over its predecessor, but it still feels like a game that is content to merely be competent, without ever really making a name for itself. It is, perhaps, the closest thing to a true WipeOut experience on your phone, but it’s neither successful at equaling WipeOut’s greatness, nor besting its nearest competitors on the platform.
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FlashOut 2 is utterly solid, yet completely unexceptional, content to mimic a great racer rather than reinvent the wheel.