Car Jack Streets - Here we welcome a new game that enters the sandbox genre popularized by the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series. Like the excellent torchbearer Payback proves, the iPhone is very capable of delivering free-roaming fun.
Car Jack Streets, developed by the original GTA team, puts you in the shoes of a character by the name of Randal Meyers. As you’ll see in a funny introductory sequence, Randal owes some mobsters a ridiculous amount of money. To save his life, you’ll have to complete a variety of jobs (legal and nefarious alike!) to pay down his gambling debt and get past the persistent drama once and for all. I’d consider this storyline from Tag Games Limited to be one of the more unique setups I’ve seen in a GTA clone.
For those of you that are acquainted with sandbox games, you’ll feel right at home with Car Jack Streets. To earn the cash that Randal needs to get out of his situation, you get a slew of missions sent to you to earn cash. Assassinations, robberies, car-jacking, and timed missions are but a few of the nice selection of missions that are available. As an interesting gameplay mechanic, you have to deliver weekly cash drops to the mob which is a constant reminder of the overall goal for Randal.
I’m very impressed by how cohesive and together the whole campaign is, but there is one thing that seriously impairs the fun here. As you may guess, it’s the controls.
Car Jack Streets suffer from awful vehicle controls. In theory, the on-screen steering and gas/brake controls should work, but they are unresponsive and infuriating as it’s hard keeping a straight line on the city’s streets. These shortcomings are especially exacerbated by missions that require vehicles to be delivered in “perfect” condition. Since the majority of the game is spent traveling from one destination to another in vehicles, surely you can imagine why would be a major issue from playing over several hours.
Car Jack Streets looks and feels like the twin brother of the recently released Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the Nintendo DS. Tag Games Limited has leveraged a colorful cel-shaded visual treatment that works well. The top down perspective doesn’t take away from the game’s richly detailed 2D sprites and hand-drawn art. One drawback on the visuals is the “busyness” of the art assets. Whether it’s the super-small stylized font on text overlays or the “serial killer-esque” real time clock, I suspect many of you will find the unorganized chaos a bit jarring. To supplement the visuals, Car Jack Streets also has large soundtrack that is inclusive of several genres (e.g. hip hop, country, electronica, etc.) on fictional radio stations you hear when you jack a car. While I wish I could change stations on a whim, the music sounds very good.
I really want to give Car Jack Streets a glowing recommendation that spotlights the laundry list of attributes that are in the game. But in my view, even the most voluminous set of features doesn’t matter when an essential gameplay mechanic is broken like the vehicle controls are here. It also must be noted that Car Jack Streets has penchant for crashing often. I've literally had to hard reset my phone several times due to the game's instability. As a result, I can’t give Car Jack Streets the nod over Payback right now. If Tag Games Limited can figure out how to fix the vehicle controls and crashing problems, Car Jack Streets has all the ingredients to be the new standard for sandbox games.