I have a little thing for these sorts of games. Ever since Trials HD turned me on to the simple joys of navigating an obstacle course, I've always been on the lookout for similar games so I can get my vehicle-balancing fix.
I'm a bit rubbish at Trials HD, by the way. There's dents on my living room walls which stand as a testament to that.
iOS is a great source of this sort of stuff. And standing out from the pack right now with its impressive production values is Blocky Roads.
Anyone familiar with Minecraft will recorgnise the visual style right away - everything in the game is made up of cubes with crude textures. Although Blocky Roads is strictly played on a 2D plane, it really goes out of its way to look as good as it can - it's ridiculously attractive, particularly on an iOS device with a Retina screen. The jaunty country tunes also give it plenty of personality, though you'll want to turn them off pretty soon as they repeat themselves past the point of over-familiarity.
Controls here are are simple - on the right hand side of the screen you have acceleration; on the left, you have your brakes. Your basic objective is to reach the end of each 2D course. There's no multiple routes here; what you see is what you get.
On the way, you'll collect coins which can be spent on upgrading areas of your vehicles. There are 4 different upgrades to choose from, each with 10 levels which require exponentially increasing amounts to unlock, but to be honest they don't seem to make a huge amount of difference. In fact more than once I actually thought the game became harder after "improving" a car.
And that's sort of the problem with Blocky Roads. To afford an updrade you will find yourself replaying the same courses over and over again. To unlock a new course, you also need to pay for it - so that's more grinding. The fact that upgrading various aspects of your vehicle don't seem to do much means that it's very easy to get a bit frustrated or feel like you've wasted all those thousands of coins you've accrued. The charm very soon wears off.
The weirdest thing about the game is that after upgrading a vehicle you can often surpass one part of the course which caused you trouble - and the game absolutely loves to throw near-vertical inclines at you - only to suddenly fail on another which previously caused you no problems. Because of this, progress frequently feels as much down to luck than it is to skill, and players may find their will to continue quickly dissipating.
In each course there are 3 chests, evenly spaced. These are unlocked automatically by driving over them and contain things like additional cosmetic upgrades for the Farmyard hub that serves as your home for choosing vehicles and courses, additional visual options for your avatar, or very (very) rarely a new vehicle. If you've collected them before, driving over them again on another run will give you a small coin bonus.
There's a superficial charm to be found in the game, but anyone hoping for gameplay to match the presentation will find themselves disappointed.
It's a bit of a shame really because with the production values on show the developer clearly has some money and time to throw around. It's just a pity that they didn't spend more of it on improving the gameplay instead of the presentation.