Mayhem on the streets of Jack City
Well this is a new one for me, reviewing a mobile game. I’m a big fan of mobile games, but I prefer puzzlers and card games really – I find them great for passing the time at airports and the like. I have to laugh when I see people playing more in-depth games on their iPhones, twisting about the place using the motion sensors to control whatever character they are playing. That being said, the iPhone is a powerful piece of kit so when I was offered Car Jack Streets to review I had a quick look at the website and decided to give it a blast.
Car Jack Streets is undeniably a GTA clone, but its back to the old-school top-down approach of GTA and GTA2. You play a guy called Randal who has a gambling problem to the tune of $1m, and you must pay this back to the mob boss Frankie in weekly $50k installments. In true GTA style, you have a variety of ways to pay this money back, from delivering pizzas or selling cars to Kirk at the docks, to performing tasks for various characters in the game.
What is slightly more unique about CJS is that it is played in “real time” – that is whatever time you are playing at will be the time in the game. So if you get a call saying there will be a guy to pick up at the marina at 3.30pm, you need to be there at 3.30pm to start the mission. Also, if you are playing at night the game world will be dark and light during the day. It also means that from the moment you start playing the game you have 7 real-time days to get that first $50k to Frankie, and this is where I found my first problem.
For me $50k is a lot of money to make in a week on a mobile game where I keep getting paid pretty small amounts for the jobs I’m doing. Delivering a pizza nets me $200, delivering a car maybe $1000. As for missions, well I’m not sure as I’ve yet to pass one, but more on that later. I think of mobile games as games you pick up for 15 minutes while waiting for a bus, or when I’m waiting on friends to go do something else. So to make $50000 in a week is just not feasible for the amount of time I’m going to be giving the game. Essentially mobile gaming is a short term distraction for me, so while the idea of ongoing games with save points etc has some appeal, the pressure of having to fulfill a weekly quota puts me off.
You play a guy called Randal who has a gambling problem to the tune of $1m
So I mentioned I have yet to pass a proper mission. I’ll admit this is partly down to my skill as I just can’t get to grips with the controls. While you are on foot all is fine, with an on-screen D-pad that you use to walk around and a little icon to fire your weapon. It all goes wrong when I get in a car though – there are forwards and backwards buttons on the right and a “steering wheel” on the left, with the car travelling in the direction you hold on the wheel. It’s not a bad control method as such, but I find it fiddly to use and also somewhat erratic. Quite often I will be holding the accelerator only for the car to just stop moving because it stopped registering my button press. With the slightly clunky steering as well, I found myself constantly bouncing off walls or other vehicles and never managing to get to my destination in time.
Car Jack Streets does include a “GPS” function, which is handy but less than ideal. The GPS consists of an arrow telling you which way to go, but no indication of what streets you should be taking. Given the huge map that is “Jack City”, it’s pretty easy to wind up in a dead-end or stuck trying to find the entrance to the walled-off dock area for example. My first mission I activated the GPS and was given 2 minutes to get to a destination and wipe out a couple of guys. I made it there fine and took out a couple of guys marked in red, then drove away, only to fail the mission for not completing it in time. I’ve had a number of “be *here* at *x* time” missions but the only one I was in the right area at the right time, I accidentally reversed into the marina as I maneuvered my car and failed.
In terms of graphics and audio, CJS scores better. It looks just like the original GTA games with the 2D top-down angle, which is no bad thing on the iPhone, and the tall buildings take on a more 3D look as they rise up towards you from the screen. It’s by no means beautiful, and due to the size of the map there’s a fair amount of repetition, but it is certainly good enough. The audio is where the game excels though, as every time you enter a car the radio switches on with a cracking selection of unsigned talent from a variety of genres. Not a bad way to pass the time when you have to meet some guy in 5 minutes and you can’t be bothered driving around looking for stuff in the meantime.
Overall it’s a nice idea having the game tied to the real-world time, but I prefer to pick up and play a game because I want to, not because it’s “game over” if I don’t. I found the controls to tricky for me to really get into the game and enjoy the missions, and apart from that, I found the whole concept to be a bit too in-depth for a mobile game. Car Jack Streets is not for me, but if you have time to invest and like depth to your mobile games then I would certainly give it a bash as there is a huge variety of things to do.
The Bad: Controls are too clunky, You are forced to play a certain amount each week