Monster trucks and off-road racing for iOS

This week's collection of iOS apps is all about 4x4s. The first has excellent off-road physics, the second is a side-scroller with huge jumps, and the last is a new monster truck game with tons of challenges.

iPhone (Credit: CNET)

A new monster truck game came out this week and it got me thinking about off-road games on the iOS. I remember playing and writing about a few early on, like 2XL ATV Offroad and then later Reckless Racing (both are definitely worth checking out), but hadn't really seen that many off-road games recently.

In my search to complete this collection I found that good monster truck games are underrepresented in the iTunes App Store, but still managed to find a couple of old favorites that are worth checking out.

This week's collection of iOS apps is all about 4x4s. The first is an oldie but goodie with excellent off-road physics. The second is a side-scroller with huge jumps and four different types of vehicles. The last is a new monster truck game with tons of jumps, stunts, and destruction.

4x4 Jam

This open-world racing game offers excellent physics even if the graphics are a bit dated.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

4x4 Jam ($1.99) is an off-road racer that lets you drive wherever you want--an ongoing and changing landscape continues in every direction. This game is from the early days of the iTunes App Store, and while the gameplay is still pretty fun, it's easy to tell the graphics haven't been updated for the latest iOS devices.

Even so, 4x4 Jam still manages to be fun and worthy of a download if you've never tried it. Steer by tilting your iPhone left and right and you have several options for control sets depending on how much control over gas and brakes you want. You can choose between a VW-bug-like off-road racer or a 4x4 truck, with four skin options for each. You can participate in a few different race types with computer-controlled players including an Off Road Race (try to beat your opponents to each gate) and a Jam (collect points by passing through more gates than your opponents). Sadly there is no career mode, so there is little to keep you interested if you don't like the race types offered. But there are three difficulty levels to keep things somewhat interesting.

One of the first things I noticed when I initially played this game was the well-implemented physics. Even now, 4x4 Jam has a better overall feel than a lot of the racing games you'll find today. As you make turns you really notice the centrifugal force and stopping to turn on a dime is pretty much impossible. This only adds to the fun as you and your opponents jockey for position and you even have opportunities to force them away from gates to get an advantage.

Overall, 4x4 Jam is an excellent if somewhat dated game, with fun and challenging racing action. If the developers optimized the game for the Retina Display and added a career mode, it would be even better.

Monster Trucks Nitro 2

Get huge air in this monster truck game as you race to the finish.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Monster Trucks Nitro 2 ($2.99) is the sequel to popular game Monster Trucks Nitro, both with the object of racing through courses littered with obstacles to compete for the best time. In Monster Trucks Nitro 2, you're challenged to work your way up through the ranks by completing early novice courses on up to championship races using different types of vehicles depending on the race. The control system gives you a throttle control across the bottom of the screen (which you'll rarely change from full power) and the accelerometer to control flips while in the air. Though it's a side-scrolling game, the camera pans as you race, giving a more 3D effect.

Monster Trucks Nitro 2 offers a lot of variation on the basic game mechanic by letting you drive four different four-wheel-drive vehicles to complete challenges and by offering 24 different tracks with unique obstacles. As you progress through tracks you'll find carefully placed pick-ups for turbo boosts, and you can initiate your own turbo boost by completing a flip during a jump. When you manage to get a particularly good time on a course, you can compare your results with other players nationally or globally (switch settings in the options).

Overall, Monster Trucks Nitro 2 is an excellent sequel to the original, offering more tracks, unique trucks to experiment with, and plenty of replay value as you try to get the best time. Anyone who likes arcade racing should grab this game.

Megastunt Mayhem

You'll ride rails, do flips, and jump through the legendary ring of fire in this game.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Megastunt Mayhem Pro ($2.99, also free version) is a new monster truck game with all the stuff we love about monster trucks: jumps, stunts, and destruction. The beautiful 3D graphics look great on the iPhone 4, and you get to pick from several different intricately designed and cool-looking monster trucks. Probably the truest to real monster trucks in this collection (except for the stunts), Megastunt Mayhem offers a number of different challenges that will test your monster-truck-driving abilities. You have a choice of control systems, using either tilt controls to steer or an onscreen steering wheel. We found the tilt-to-steer method to be much more intuitive.

Megastunt Mayhem starts you out easy so you can learn the basics of performing stunts--stunts that would be impossible in an actual monster truck, but still very fun. The game is actually more like a skateboarding game in the way you perform tricks. You start out in a freestyle arena and you're challenged to complete some of the easier stunts in the game. To perform a front flip, for example, simply swipe up on your truck when you go over a jump. Swiping sideways while on the ground makes your truck perform a doughnut. In addition to flips and spins, you can also ride rails with your monster truck like a skateboarder. Though not very realistic, it's fun trying to chain stunts together when playing in freestyle mode.

In addition to the freestyle stunt mode, you'll also be challenged to crush cars and destroy billboards in Destruction mode, and race for time in Smashpoint mode. Each mode has 10 challenges and you get a star rating for completing an event. Part of your rating is completing the main mission, but you will also have side missions (perform a wheelie during the challenge, for example) that push your ratings to the top.

Overall, Megastunt Mayhem Pro is probably the best monster truck game in the iTunes App Store, with great-looking graphics and challenging gameplay. If you like the roar of monster truck engines and smashing up cars while completing challenges, this game is the best option.

Do you have a favorite monster truck or off-road racing game? Let us all know in the comments!

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