One of the things I like most about TabTimes’ first Game of the Week for 2014 is how challenging it is. In a world of easily solved games, Jet Car Stunts 2 is not easy to figure out.
The core gameplay is straightforward, if unconventional. You race a car around a track or through a stunt course, with graphics and a HUD (head-up display) that feels more appropriate to an old-school combat flight simulator than a racing game.
At various moments in the game, the HUD makes sense because you’ll find yourself tilting the nose of your tablet up or back to launch it higher or lower into the sky in order to complete specific stunt challenges or to win races. (You’ll also tilt it side to side to turn your rocket-powered car on some remarkably cambered turns and chicanes.)
In this regard, Jet Car Stunts 2 mirrors the original game in the series, and goes beyond mere racing and becomes a puzzle game. Part of the challenge of many of the 120 levels is figuring out how to best approach each curve and jump, and understanding when and how to accelerate and brake, both vertically and horizontally.
It is not easy. In fact, it is surprisingly difficult. But somehow, JCS 2 manages to remain compelling and compulsive, attempt after attempt. This is part of the appeal. Although the goal of each level may be apparent, successfully executing the turns and afterburner thrusts required to complete each challenge will challenge your dexterity. It’s the kind of game that will keep you up at night.
While the core game is free to play, developer True Axis has created in-game purchases that feel fair. Instead of buying access past the most challenging levels, you buy additional levels, races, and—most importantly—the right to create and upload levels of your own.
The user-generated content angle is a stroke of genius because it allows the developer to essentially provide a close-to-infinite number of new levels of gameplay at relatively little cost. It also provides some built-in community around Jet Car Stunts, as level designers exchange notes and challenges with each other.
One other thing I love: You can buy complete access to all Jet Car Stunts 2 content for $4.99. This is how the best app developers create loyalty.
Other tablet games I'm playing
1. Eternity Warriors 3: A surprisingly fun action RPG, EW3 does two things very well. First, the loot drops consist of a massive amount of equipment that you can transform into gear you want. Second, the Diablo-style action is tightly orchestrated, with a nice variety of dungeons and outdoor environments.
2. Republique: I finally got around to playing this stealth-action game this week, which was funded by Kickstarter. It’s great, tense fun, and somehow pulls off the rare trick of being a real gamer’s game, while still being fairly accessible. Definitely worth checking out.
3. Real Racing 3: As I started putting together this week’s column, I went on a bit of a racing kick. Electronic Arts’ third entry in its fairly new mobile racing series surprised me. It looks great, with top-notch controls. Available for both iOS and Android.
4. Ridge Racer Slipstream: Ridge Racer has an arcade racing pedigree at arcades and on console systems. This mobile entry does the series justice.