The faded, grainy photo of Muscle Run, a tough as nails racer from Wonderwood Games, gives us a simple view of an open road and a red car. Some driving titles requires a modicum of dexterity and strategy, and that's all fine and dandy. But what if you want to hit the highways with the regular folk and just drive until there is nothing left to see?
Before my descent into organic salads, protein bars and Mediterranean diets, my daily, carb fueled intake consisted of pizza, beer, hamburgers, and cheese. Although they eventually did a number on my expanding gut, I still cherish those caloric, sodium drenched years. Just like a Burt Reynolds film from the '70s, everything seemed uncomplicated and straightforward. I was living a testosterone fueled fantasy, and it didn't matter where or when I crashed. A crazy tinted, blue bruiser would have added even more color to my life, but thankfully this beauty now graces my iPad.
Muscle Run offers such a promise. If you want to race in the South of France against top of the line vehicles, you're barking up the wrong tree. You're driving a nearly indestructible killing machine that plows into trucks which block its path. Although there are time trials and achievements to attain in your travels, the goal is simple -- drive fast enough and leave everything, especially any kind of analysis, in your rear view. Before that can happen, however, make sure to move all those other vehicles out of your way.
Story Mode, which gives a set of goals and challenges to keep things interesting, is best suited for the more structured player. There is a leveled sanity to know that, even when you're driving on the wrong side of the road and indiscriminately smashing into other cars, that there is a clear goal. My preference lies in Free Ride Mode, which enables you to drive for stretches at a time sans any restrictions. Although you're collecting cash and racking up your score along the way, the beauty of the open road can thoroughly be enjoyed without any specific tasks to accomplish. Watching the moonlight hit a nighttime stretch of highway is a beautiful thing, especially with the iPad's retina eye display working to your advantage.
Players have a choice of either tilting their device to steer, or use a virtual joystick for movement. As an iPad junkie, getting the full physical capability of my device is the only way to go, especially since most apps simply require the use of a finger. Using both hands and just taking command is apropos for a muscle car themed title, but if you decide on this mechanic just make sure you have a light touch. Navigating between several cars, or even properly taking command of the road requires just the slightest tilt of your device, and sharply veering one way or the other will ensure an accident. Since I'm basically a car wreck waiting to happen, I just throw caution to the wind and drive the other way.
Upgrade addicts will also be pleased to know that there are a healthy amount of muscle cars to purchase once you accrue enough cash. If you want to stay with the same old beater, however, you can also use your dollars to trick up your ride as much as humanly possible. With variety being the spice of life, I spent a ton of time collecting dough under Free Ride mode and saved up for my first big purchase. Ladies and germs, here is my latest addition -- the Arbiter!!
Muscle Run is a steak and potatoes game which gives you a ton of meat on the bone. It's very simple to pick up, and if you're in need of an uncomplicated driving experience this title won't disappoint. Very few 'what you see is what you get' kind of titles really grab me due to their overall two dimensional aesthetic. When done right, these titles can actually outshine some of their more complex counterparts. Don't expect any kind of vehicular profundities with Muscle Run, but if you're craving a fatty iOS meal that will please your stomach, take the keys to The Arbiter and leave everything behind.