Riptide GP 2 review: One of the best damn iOS games you'll play this year

Riptide GP 2 is here, and as with the original the folks at Vector Unit have delivered something stunning for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Hitting the App Store today as a long awaited follow up to the original Riptide GP, what we have is something more beautiful, more fun to play, and an all round fantastic mobile game.

For those not familiar with the original; Riptide GP is a water based racing game that sees you pilot powerful Jet Skis around a variety of circuits with differing difficulty. It's appeal goes beyond those who like racing games, because this isn't your typical racing game. The waves affect your lines into corners, throw you up in the air, and it takes a different all round strategy to finish first. So, let's take a look.

The graphics are the first port of call; they're gorgeous. Little else needs to be said about them, but it was the first thing that hit you with the original, and it's the first thing that hits you here as well. The general style remains from the original, but everything is a little more polished, a little shinier, and the water effects are sublime. Oh, and using boost gives you a really impressive, and satisfying motion blur to indicate how fast you're going. Looking at Riptide GP 2 makes you want to play it.

So, it's beautiful, but how does it play? The first thing of note is that the gameplay is now structured into a career mode, with natural progression that was lacking in the original. Career mode consists of various types of races from regular completing so many laps through hot laps and even eliminations. There's also a multiplayer online game mode that hooks up via Game Center to find your opponents. It seems a little slow to find other players, though that may change as more people download the game and actually start playing it.

Career mode works much like you'd expect it to. You start out with a basic Jet Ski, at the lowest tier of the ladder and you have to work your way up by winning races. Even the early races aren't that easy to win, so there's a good challenge to be had to finish even in the top three. Finishing in the top three earns you stars, and the number of stars you have determines when new races are unlocked. You also earn prize money which you can use to trick out your existing machine or put towards buying a better one. Straight forward stuff but it gives the game structure, and longevity, that had been lacking before.

In-game controls are pretty straight forward; either tilt or touch to turn can be enabled. You hit the brakes in either of the bottom corners, and the boost is a button marked with a flame. It works really well in either input method, with the only criticism being the location of the boost button. It's a little far away from the other on-screen buttons if you're using tilt controls on the iPad, so to cover everything you either need big hands or to hold the iPad in a slightly odd manner. On the iPhone this issue goes away because of the smaller nature of the display.

In terms of the gameplay, one key aspect to winning the race is the implementation of boost. Used correctly it can be the different between first and, not first. You begin the race with a full boost meter, but from there on out you must replenish it by performing stunts. The racetracks are littered with jumps, and as you go over them various gesture controls perform various stunts with differing levels of boost as the reward. Not to mention it looks pretty spectactular.

Possibly my favorite part though; iCloud game saves. I finished up a pretty hefty session last night on my iPad, picked up my iPhone this morning and carried on right from where I left off. When it's implemented in a game you enjoy playing, it's something you really, really appreciate. Vector Unit, I thank you.

One aspect of the game I don't like so much; in-app purchases. Once again we're left paying for a game that also offers in-app purchases. On the positive side, it's not like some other games where you really have to pay in order to progress. The purchases are seemingly there to give you that extra leg up. Still, it may be off-putting to some to see a title that you pay for asking you to pay again.

The good

  • Stunning graphics, with impressive water effects
  • Great controls, perfectly implemented for touchscreen devices
  • Proper career mode and game progression
  • Controller support will be added in a future update

The bad

  • In-app purchases in a paid game are still tough to swallow

The bottom line

Riptide GP 2 is a truly fantastic mobile game. Vector Unit set a high bar with the original, and the sequel is a worthy successor. You won't get tired of looking at it, you won't get tired of playing it. It's pure, all out fun, and is one of the finest games I've played on iOS this year.

Richard Devine

Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy. Follow him on Twitter and Google+