Unreal Engine-Based Flashbike Arena (iOS) Preview: Ho-hum?

Not everyday you get a game developed using Unreal Developloment Kit (UDK) and Unreal Engine, so I was generally excited when I received the almost completed build of Flashbike Arena from the guys over at Two Gear LLC for the iPhone. The game is basically a clone of TRON lightcycles experience. While I’m not unfamiliar with the concept, I was curious to see what the Unreal Engine would bring to the table.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed when I didn’t see much of graphical bling-bling, I think that’s the first thing that comes to a consumer’s mind whenever someone says “I’ve made a game using Unreal Engine”. According to the developers the game features next-gen shaders and rigid body physics, but if this translates to more of the same kind of experience already available on the App Store, or it’s just uninspired enough to warrant a “Meh..”, then such terminology are only good for marketing speak.

The proof, however, is in the pudding, and when it comes to games, it would be in the gameplay. So how does Flashbike Arena match-up in this aspect? If you’ve seen a Tron-inspired lightcycle game, then you would have a clear idea on what’s happening in Flashbike Arena. Players steer futuristic motorbikes that leave coloured walls in their wake. Crashing into one of these walls (be it your own or the opponent’s) and you’ll lose one live. Opponents drop energy orbs when destroyed and collecting these will add a nice bonus to your score.

But having said that, the gameplay doesn’t amount to much. And even as a tech demo, it’s very hard to appreciate since there’s not much of the visual bling-bling usually associated with Unreal Engine-based games in Flashbike Arena. Word of advice, drop the UDK selling point and the Infinity Blade name-dropping, and concentrate on some really compelling gameplay. Just ask the guys behind Hard Lines (review here), now those guys didn’t need Unreal Engine.

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