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But overall, Car Jack Streets does a fairly decent job, despite the faulty driving controls. On the more creative side, the game operates in real time, so the game's time is the same as your time. Daytime playing means it's daytime in the game, and vice versa, which corresponds nicely to Frankie's weekly payment deadline. Outside of a few lazy delivery jobs, missions never really get stale and usually provide a decent challenge. The soundtrack provides a fairly decent variety of song choices, as well. When compared to the similarly themed Payback, Payback wins out by a hair, based purely on the controls alone. With a few minor tweaks to the control scheme, Car Jack Streets would be the clear winner.
After much reworking, Car Jack Streets comes to the iPhone and is a great improvement on the original. The fundamentals are the same, you play as Randal Meyers; a part-time hoodlum with a million dollar debt to repay. As you can imagine, even though all your debts have been consolidated into a simple amount that's going to take some time to pay back. Top boss, Frankie, has a kind heart and will accept payments of only $50,000 every week! The only way this is getting paid back is through shady criminal work and not by flipping burgers.
Overall, I would probably recommend the game, but it is not an unconditional recommendation. I can’t see myself coming back to this game every day, or even sporadically in a few months just because of the quality of some of the other iPhone games. The driving is just a bit too time consuming for this one to be a mega hit, but if you like GTA 1+2, you will probably get a good deal of satisfaction from it. The graphics are amazing, the sound is spectacular, an the walking controls are really fun, so even if you don’t enjoy the stop and go driving or the lack of urgency, you will still find some enjoyment in Car Jack Streets. If I had to choose between this game and a Subway footlong sub, I would probably go with the game… but please eat something. Starving yourself isn’t good, even if it is for the sake of iPhone gaming glory.
However, take a step back and look at the game for what it is, which is what I have tried to do with this review, and you’ll discover that Car Jack Streets is a thoroughly enjoyable GTA style romp which, while not featuring the depth of story or character developments as that series, still manages to extract the best elements of those games and create an on the go, pick-up-and-play gamestyle that suits the iPhone perfectly. Yes there are some problems, and even with its seemingly long time in development, you could argue that the game is not quite ready for release. But, even in it’s current state, as an overall package it is a solid and enjoyable game… and certainly worth the price of admission.
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.
The option to use different control schemes would make it infinitely more playable for those who find the relative system counter-intuitive. It's not a game-breaker by any means, but along with the dodgy GPS it manages to take some of the sheen off Car Jack Streets's finish. As much as you may want it to hijack your spare time, this is a game that would have benefited from a tune up before hitting the streets.
Overall, Car Jack Streets manages to be the best GTA-alike on the iPhone but there's still substantial room for improvement and polish, and given the sheer quality of other portable GTA offerings such as Liberty / Vice City Stories on the PSP and the sublime Chinatown Wars on the DS, this brash upstart still has a long way to go before it can comfortably steal Grand Theft Auto's crown. Having said that, it's a deep and satisfying game that offers the right mix of criminal acts, gross violence, car chases and weapons. There's really nothing else that comes as close as this to replicating the GTA experience on the iPhone / iPod Touch, and it's priced attractively at £2.99 so it won't break the bank.