Phaze for the iPhone is a fast-paced, futuristic racing game reminiscent of F-Zero, only with weapons. You can initially choose between three ships, but can unlock seven more for a total of ten. Each ship has different levels of power, shield, and agility. There are 16 tracks in total and four levels of difficulty ranging from Beginner to Extreme. The game can be played as a single race or championship mode which unlocks the other ships for use and has you race through all 16 tracks in succession.
Phaze sets itself apart from other racing games available on the iPhone by incorporating weapons and powerups into the gameplay. You can acquire missiles, bombs, and torpedoes to take out rivals. There are also shields, speed boosts, and energy recharges to keep you ahead of the pack. These items are scattered throughout the tracks and can be determined by their color. Speed boosts are also generously placed to ensure the action never slows down too much.
The control scheme is another unique aspect of this game. Most racing games on the iPhone can be played by tilting the device, but in Phaze, the speed is controlled in this manner as well. By tilting the iPhone down or back, you can increase or decrease your speed accordingly. Angling too far elicits a flashing red screen and visual warning that the phone is too flat. While this may be a limitation of the iPhone’s accelerometer, the game handles this potential show stopper in a way that does not drastically interrupt the gameplay and allows you to immediately correct your movement. Without this small feature, the game would appear buggy and dysfunctional when in reality it’s the functionality of the phone itself.
The music in the game consists of three techno tracks that are well suited to the high-speed action of the game. They might even do well at a South Beach party. You are also able to play music on your iPhone, but this disables all game sounds. The graphics are smooth and considering how fast you can go, the game keeps up. The colorful space backdrops help give the impression that you are really flying through the universe at 400 mph.
On easy, the game is a cakewalk. The other ships don’t even use the boosts and you may find yourself lapping them repeatedly. It is significantly more challenging on the other difficulties as they start to utilize boosts and weapons more frequently. The game’s controls take some time to get used to and may require some tweaking of the steering sensitivity. It seems easy to overcompensate for turns and end up grinding against the walls which rapidly depletes your energy level. Your ship is replaced quickly, but those precious seconds could cost you the race. A heavily desired option by many is a track layout available on screen during the races. While all the tracks are similar in shape, it’s hard to see sharp turns coming and would allow you to see what is ahead and the position of other ships. It may have made the screen too crowded as screen real estate on the iPhone can be limited.
While the game does not have an extensive amount of depth, it does provide a satisfying racing experience. The main mechanic, the actual racing and steering, has a solid feel and responds well to the movement of the iPhone. A multiplayer over wifi would be a welcomed addition, but the game provides an adequate challenge even on Normal difficulty. Phaze is available for $2.99 which is a reasonable price for this solid game. If you are a fan of intense racing games, check out the free version and you will probably want the full Phaze experience.