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20th December 2018
On The Go: Death Rally on Android, iOS & Kindle Fire
[Advent Calendar 2018]

On The Go is a new feature which tests Remedy products on the go; seeing how perfect they are for your commute to work, while travelling on holiday, or returning home for Christmas. This could be mobile games or books, anything small enough to be part of a regular journey. Today we're looking at the 2011 title, Death Rally.

I absolutely love this title. While I played the original 1996 Death Rally, there's something about this edition which just instantly clicked with me. It was the first tablet game that I had played with on-screen analogue sticks and while I was predicting A LOT of crashing at first, the controls actually felt intuitive and the game guides you smoothly into becoming a better driver. It's a title which I've spent a lot of time playing and that I seriously love.

The History

Originally released in 1996, Death Rally was the studio's first game and was built with a skeleton crew. For the team, the title proved that they had a working formula to move on to bigger projects. The game was a top-down racer, developed by Remedy, published by Apogee, and distributed by GT Interactive Software. Thirteen years after the game's release, a proprietary freeware version was posted to the Remedy website, created by Jari Komppa.

Around the same time, Finland's mobile scene was booming. The success of Rovio's Angry Birds franchise in December of that same year, kindled the interest of many game developers to turn towards mobile development, Remedy included. While the dates are a little vague, it was between 2010 and 2015 that the developers made a studio structural decision; splitting the company into two groups. One group would be The Next Big Thing, and focus on things like Alan Wake's American Nightmare and Quantum Break. The second group would be mobile development and would create games like Death Rally in collaboration with Mountain Sheep and Cornfox & Bros and would go on to make Agents of Storm for iOS devices with publisher Flaregames.

The Premise 

The Story 
Death Rally's story is quite compact for a Remedy game but perfect for a mobile game, especially one with the emphasis on gameplay; in that regard it is very similar to the original title. The story is told in a series of new graphic novel panels, similar to the classic Max Payne titles. In the mobile version, you play as a nameless and faceless character. (Personally I like to keep the Remedy trend of eponymous characters, so in my head you play as Mr Death Rally). While escaping from the law, Mr Rally's car is wrecked and Police Chief Harris (whose look always reminds me of George Lucas) manipulates him to join a series of death rallies as an undercover criminal informant, to avoid jail time, and to help the police capture "The Adversary".

The Adversary is the antagonist in the game and will only show up later in the game once you start building a solid reputation and upgrade your car. By beating him, you essentially beat the game but while the story ends there, you can continue competing in the challenges afterwards.


Gameplay 

In Death Rally there are two areas that the player will spend the most time, the first is the garage where you can repair your car and buy new defences and weapons for the next race, with the other being on the track.

Your Garage 
Levelling up your vehicle feels easier than it did in the original, meaning that you can get straight into the action as a serious competitor quicker and get into the gameplay. This is partly due to the redesign for the mobile; while there's an element of strategy, it's now shifted to allow gameplay to be experienced in short boosts rather than diligent planning.

On The Track
There are approximately half a dozen different tracks, but while the locations may look familiar the more you play, there are a number of ways that the game makes the experience fresh. Simple things like reversing the direction of the circuit, competitor interaction, weapons, reward boxes and more all contribute to making the experience fresh. You control your car using two on-screen analogue sticks; one controls the steering, with the other controlling the weapon direction. While it sounds weird to describe, as you play it the two controls feels quite natural.


Accessibility 

Platform 
The mobile version of Death Rally launched on Android, iOS, and later on Kindle Fire devices. In 2012, it was launched on PC and is available to purchase on Steam.

Availability 
Availability for the title is... a little weird. While there's a product page for the game on the App Store through the browser, Death Rally doesn't appear on mobile devices. If you bought or downloaded the game previously, it will still be available to you, and you can redownload it. There's a similar story for Android owners. The product pages last show updates in 2015, which is when the game became free. It sounds like Remedy might have been wrapping up the project as mobile technology marched on. It doesn't mean that it's impossible to get a hold of a copy; there are some gaming websites selling codes including Amazon (which has a pretty good refund policy if it's not as advertised) for less than the app was originally.

Time
Each race takes only a few minutes, meaning that it's a solid pick-up-and-play title, perfect for when you just missed missed the Underground train. If you have a little longer to wait, you can string together a series of races, selecting different tracks to step up the challenge. There's also repairs and customisation that you can bring to your vehicles too. In short, while the gameplay duration can be as long or as short as you want it to be in a certain moment, it's a game that you're going to repeatedly go back to.

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