Lightstream Racer AR game

Lightstream Racer – Game Review (iOS)

In the past week I was very busy, but today I found a time window to review an AR game called Lightstream Racer.

What is Lightstream Racer?

Lightstream racer is a futuristic anti-gravity racing augmented reality game developed using Apple’s ARKit. The game features beautiful slick sci-fi graphics and fast-paced racing action with 360° racing tracks.

Playing Lightstream Racer AR game in the metro, Seoul
Playing Lightstream Racer AR game in the metro, Seoul

In this game, players control a racing car and try to break time records of either other online players in the online mode or break a default time in the offline mode to unlock higher difficulty tracks for online and offline modes and progress in rank.

This is game is definitely designed to be played outdoors in a large open environment. I tried to play it in my small room, although possible, it’s really doesn’t do justice to the game. Furthermore, the game comes with a cool “360 Experience”, in which the player needs to stay in the middle of a large track circulating him, and this is not suitable for small spaces.

Red trail means I am trailing behind the target time. objective
Red trail means I am trailing behind the target time. objective.

Although the air quality in Seoul today was very poor, I’ve decided to go out and review it outdoors. I walked towards the metro to arrive at a certain location. At the metro, I actually found a nice place to shoot, so instead of playing Lightstream Racer out in the heat and the dusty outdoors environment, I’ve decided to stay inside the metro and play there.

Let’s check out some gameplay action!

Game Modes

Expert mode unlocked
I’ve unlocked the highest difficulty mode: “EXPERT”.

Lightstream Racer has three different game modes:

  • Career mode – an offline game mode with 3 different difficulty levels (Novice, Intermediate, and Expert). Each one features 5 different tracks. To unlock a higher difficulty level, the user needs to finish the track under the target time frame. Your best score for each track is saved as well, and you’ll unlock faster cars as in each new difficulty level. Unlocking difficulty levels here also unlock the difficulty levels in the online and 360 experience modes as well.
  • Online mode – the online mode is where you can race against other player times. This mode feature two type of races: 5-Lap (takes longer to complete and Hot Lap. In Hot Lap the player has 10 laps to try to beat its rival best lap time or it is game over.
  • 360 Experience – the 360 Degree game mode features three different tracks for each of the 3 difficulty levels. Here the player needs to stand inside the circuit. The player will be encircled with a whole track for a more immersive room scale experience.

Game Controls

Lightstream Racer features two controls. One the right you have the accelerator button to move your car forward, and on the left side, you have the magnet button which makes the car stick to the track.

Playing the 360 experience in Lightstream Racer iOS Game
Playing the 360 experience. The track encircles the player. A great AR experience.

The physics works impressively well in this game. Using the Mag Grip brake button is essential when taking sharp turns. The player needs to carefully time the use of that button to hold tight on fast corners. It won’t help if you already achieve a very strong speed momentum and didn’t use it at the right moment.

The whole driving controls are about the fine balance between keeping your car moving at the maximum speed while balancing the brakes and releasing the accelerator button gently before and during sharp turns. Furthermore, players need to well control drifts in order to gain a speed boost and try to get out of fast turns with the maximum speed momentum.

Your car can also be thrown out of the track, land on its nose and break and even fly out of track when driving over ramps.

Challenging Game with Great Replay Value

I first thought this is just going to be yet another campaign where I am going to easily finish super fast, but I actually failed a few times. It doesn’t take long to finish the career mode. It took me like 30 minutes. The thing is that this game is not about “finishing”, but finishing with the best time.

Beautiful futuristic sci-fi racing tracks!
Beautiful futuristic sci-fi racing tracks!

The online mode delivers excellent replay value and its essential for retention. Lightstream Racer sports 30 global leaderboards for each mode, each diffusely level, and each track.

It’s so much fun trying to take a challenge beating the top player on the list. Players can choose which player time to compete against. If you beat the time, you win, if you don’t, you lose.

Ghost Racing

Another great feature is Ghost Racing which allows the player to always visualize how he stacks out against the time is competing against with an animated moving banner that travels across the track with you (aka “The Seeker”). It’s essentially a visual representation of the time you are racing against. When you are behind it, the beautiful fluid dragline behind the car will turn red, whether if you are leading it will in turquoise color.

The drag effect also changes colors based on the speed of the car. When you are at full speed, it will in light green, and turn to yellow when you decrease in speed.

Super Fun and Addictive Gameplay

I am not a big fan of car racing games but Lightstream Racer kept me hooked straight from the beginning. The controls are easy to grasp, yet controlling the car did require precise timing if you want to be able to beat your rivals.

I actually would have preferred having an option to see a “ghost car” then a moving banner, however, it still gave me the thrills and made me stay focus in order to make sure I stay in front of that moving banner the whole time.

It would also be amazing if there were real-time multiplayer races. I do hope that we get this in a future update.

Drifting is so much fun. After playing the game like an hour, I got the hang of it and I was able to adapt well to several tracks. Each track is different and requires the player to spend more time trying to master it.

I was focusing on a single track in order to break the top player’s time. Believe it or not, after practicing a bit, I was able to secure the top spot in the Hot Lap: Expert Glow Arena with a total time of 17:10 seconds (try to beat that time if you can).

Pilot grade E to D
I’m progressing! Pilot grade E to D, yes!

I also was able to boost my pilot grade but I still have a long way to go. I also still trying to practice my ability to maintaining speed through corners. Sometimes I get into corners with an excessive speed which results in my car losing balance. When this happens, it takes a few seconds until the car balances itself back on the track, and that makes me lose precious seconds.

You know, this is the first game where I actually was really frustrated that I wasn’t able to break a time record.I actually failed on the last lap and when I lost was pretty upset. This how good the game is because it was able to take out so well that competitive aspect in me. Not just that, when you play the game, you are all into it, so it suddenly becomes something of an importance when you fail and aren’t able to accomplish an objective

Lightstream Racer is a very addicting game. It amazing how well the developer was able to maintain simplicity, and use an excellent car and track physics to produce a fun and challenging gameplay experience.

One of the main downsides is that I didn’t enjoy playing it in my little room as much as I did outdoors, which means I need to go outside to play it next time. On the other hand, it can also be an advantage, another reason to go out and enjoy the outdoor environment. Well, its all depends on how you look at it. Little complain though, considering how good the game was for me. OK, let’s move on.

AR Experience

As I mentioned before, Lightstream Racer is best played outdoors in a larger open environment.

I’ve played it in the metro in around 3.5-meter square area and enjoyed every minute of it. I definitely going to try it in other places when the polluted air clears out and when it is less hot.

No doubt that the best AR experience was playing the 360 experience game mode. It’s so cool watching a huge virtual track circulating you, the player. It’s not among those table-top AR games played on a small surface, this experience felt like I was standing in the middle of a roller coaster track in an amusement park 🙂

The developer did an amazing job designing the tracks for augmented reality. It used elevation so the track ramps up about 1 meter above the floor, which helps to enhance depth perception and promotes a more exciting gameplay experience. Furthermore, the tracks have ramps which sometimes make the car fly up in mid-air, which is beautiful to watch in augmented reality and also makes the game feel more exciting to watch.

For example, playing a tabletop AR game which is completely played within its virtual boundaries flat on the table with little use of the vertical space, less coalesce with the real-world environment compared to a game that: makes use of a broader space, encourages up viewing, correctly utilized the 3D space for virtual object placement for better depth perception.

I also think that more developers are trying to go with large-scale (one that are recommended to play in a relatively large space for the best gameplay experience) AR games than ever before in order to improve the AR experience and make their games stand out from the rest. Tibb AR and this game are two great examples of that.

I’ve played quite a few AR car games and I found out that one of the main problems was how to nail the controls right. I found out that the best car AR games are the ones where the user is not given very precise control of the movement of the car like in AR Car Crash. I’ve played AR Might Angry Stunt Cars and AR Toys: Playground Sandbox, and although it’s not a racing game, the manual controls felt very annoying and confusing, especially when the car start facing different directions and you need to synchronize the steering with the direction it’s facing.

One way to solve it is doing exactly what the developer of Lightstream Racer did make the car stick to the surface, and allowing the user to control only two aspects of the driving control, speed, and brakes, without giving the player any control over the direction of the car.

Lightstream Racer looks beautiful in augmented reality. It’s clean and streamlines design also matches well any environment it is played at. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. You can clearly tell the developer put efforts into making sure that the game is well-designed to the platform it’s developed for.

Although I am really into AR games that you can sense physicality, this game AR experience is more on the observatory level, like most AR games. Physical-interaction simulation in AR is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing games like AMON, HADO (location-based AR game) and PuzzlrAR so much. Maybe there is a place to add some sort of physical-feeling like interaction to this game as well.

Conclusion

Lightstream Racer is a fantastic augmented reality racing game and it’s definitely the best AR racing game I’ve played to this date.

I have to be honest, many AR games don’t make me want to come back for more, but Lightsream Racer did.

It’s not perfect. I still want some real-time racing action, which can really lift this game presence even higher for those people who love multiplayer racing games. It would be great to be able to unlock new items and cars based on achievements and time records, just to have something to brag about you know. Maybe it’s not crucial at the moment, because you are not actually racing against other people in real-time, but when that feature is released, I want to have this option in the game.

The game does boast 19 achievements or players to pursue. It has 30 global leaderboards. This motivates players to try to focus on particular tracks, perfect their drifts and try to conquer that particular leaderboard.

The music, sound effects, and visual effects all work so well together. The moment you start playing, it’s just you and the track, you forget about anything else. your sole focus is on speed control and perfecting the timing. Every single tiny mistake can cause you to fail your time objectives.

Lightstream Racer isn’t a free game, but if this game doesn’t worth its price tag ($0.99 at the time of writing), I don’t know which augmented reality game is.

The developer, Virtual Arts Limited, solved some of the issues that many car-controlled AR games had in order to deliver a smooth, solid and fun AR gameplay experience. A game that not just looks great, but plays great as well in augmented reality.

I really eager to see what’s planned for future updates. I’m sure the best is yet to come. You want the bottom line: GET IT!

You can buy and download Lightstream Racer for iOS from the App Store here.

P.S. what about procedurally generated tracks with connected vertical and horizontal tracks (using ARKit’s vertical plane detection). I want to be able to race on the walls and ceiling in the metro 🙂

Editor's Choice Award 2018