A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Asphalt 8: Airborne is a racing game with an emphasis on speed and dramatic, slow-motion collisions. The game uses real-world vehicles, with makes ranging from Dodge to Bugatti, some of which must be unlocked using in-game currency (which can be earned or purchased). These in-app purchases aren't thrust upon users, but they're worth noting because of the potential high price. The Gameloft Live! opt-in feature allows players to connect to strangers, though they're unable to communicate with them.
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What's it about?
Players steer cars through a wide variety of courses in a number of cities. There's no worrying about acceleration, as that's handled automatically. Users simply have to steer their cars, tapping the lower-left screen to brake and the lower-right to give their cars a boost of nitrus. (Learning when best to use those boosts to gain a better competitive position is a key to the game.) Driving up ramps can send your car airborne, and maneuvering against opponents can cause them to crash (shown in slow motion).
Is it any good?
The Asphalt series has never been particularly concerned with physics. It's more about pure arcade fun -- and that focus serves it well in Asphalt 8: Airborne. It's a game that has a lot going for it: a great soundtrack, terrific graphics, some eye-popping stunts for players to pull off, and the carnal joy of causing opponents to wreck. Also, the game's multiplayer mode is done quite well.
Where it falls short is in the gameplay itself. Steering controls are a bit muddy, and the home screen is a mess of boxes with no immediate indication of what you should touch to start playing. In the game, if you try to drift, you often come to a stop or spin out of control. Also, upgrading your car collection can get expensive; although it's possible to do so with cash earned in-game, the app certainly nudges players toward in-app purchases for the high-level vehicles.
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