Ridge Racer 3D isn't a tremendous game, but in comparison to Asphalt 3D it's a masterpiece. Whereas Namco's game nails the arcade handling model, this Ubisoft launch title feels like a racing game for beginners, rushed out for the launch of the handheld. There's plenty of content here and the 3D is at times decent, but I'd be surprised if a ropier game hits the 3DS this year.
Asphalt 3D had the potential to be good fun. It's an arcade racer at heart, with elements of Burnout thrown in, meaning you can take down rival racers and other cars driving around the city tracks. The more carnage you cause the higher your Wanted level becomes, in turn increasing the number of cops on your tail. It sounds good on paper, but in-game this rough and tumble gameplay falls down due to horrible collision detection and the most basic of handling models that asks almost nothing of the player. You could probably win a lot of races here by simply having working eyes.
Power-ups litter the tracks, coming in big and small varieties. N20 pick-ups fill up your nitrous gauge, which can either be used in bursts or in one hyper boost that brings with it a fancy Tron-like graphical effect. Money pick-ups, quite obviously give you cash, while Repair pick-ups fix dents and scrapes on your car. Sadly the big power-up icons often obscure your view of the track and any oncoming traffic, resulting in some unwanted collisions.
To get the best 3D effect Asphalt should be played from the bonnet-cam, but from this view the game is almost laughably ugly. Other cars appear to be flying around the tracks, with no obvious connection to the tarmac; it's possible to drive straight through opponents despite the game realising you've hit them; and you'll nudge other cars even though they appear some distance away.
A painfully slow frame rate only serves to make Asphalt 3D an even more unpleasant racing experience. Some juddering now and again would have been tolerable, but here the game is never smooth and at times chugs so much you'd be forgiven for thinking you're playing an early alpha version. There's also a hideous amount of pop-up, with huge chunks of scenery and trackside detail appearing from nowhere.
All of these problems make the substantial content on offer somewhat redundant. Yes, there are 17 tracks, more than 40 licensed vehicles and 70 race events, but it all counts for toffee when all you'll want to do is let out a heavy sigh while wishing you'd bought Ridge Racer 3D instead. There's far more variety to the gameplay here than in Namco's racer, with eight different event types, but I'd still rather be powersliding around the same track in Ridge Racer than doing anything in Asphalt.
Launch titles are often rushed and not representative of what the console can really do, but Asphalt is poor even by these lowered standards. Of all the early 3DS games I've played, this one is a dead cert to be filling bargain bins in a few weeks.