Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham reported earlier on Audi's A4 iPhone app and found that instead of being an innovative way to interface with your vehicle via iPhone, it was merely a game designed to market the newly updated A4 sedan. Recently, Audi updated the app with two new unlockable vehicles and some tweaks to the controls. Having recently purchased an iPod Touch, I decided to take Audi's app for a spin.
The Audi A4 Driving Challenge 2.0, which is a free download from the iTunes App Store, is played by holding the iPhone in landscape orientation. Thumbs are used to press the gas and brake buttons in the lower corners, while steering uses the iPhone's accelerometers and is handled by twisting the device like a car's steering wheel. Players race the Audi A4 2.0T Quattro against the clock in a time trial style on any of five courses of increasing difficulty. Once all five courses have been cleared in the allocated time, the player is given the option to upgrade to the 3.2 Quattro model and subsequently the R8.
Driving in the game isn't by any means realistic and every race can be completed without ever lifting off of the throttle or tapping the brakes. The top down view and horizontal screen orientation means that you won't be able see what's coming, resulting in more than a few frustrating off-track excursions. Additionally, every course is essentially a corridor of cones and the only scenery you'll get is gray asphalt whizzing past.
The odd thing was that in spite of the game's flaws, I couldn't stop playing. While it's no Gran Turismo, Audi's little iPhone app is a pretty fun distraction during a boring commute on the train. The steering is a little touchy, but once you get the hang of it, the game is quite easy to play. Ghost car data of your fastest lap adds replay value, allowing players to try to beat their best time. Couple that with the can't-be-beat price of free and we've got a winner.
Of course, at it's core, the game is a marketing app for Audi's vehicles, but it's not an overt one. At no point did Audi make me sit through a commercial or a sales pitch. The link to the iPhone optimized site sits quietly on the main menu screen for you to click or ignore. I think this minor amount of advertising is well worth being able to play a cool, free game.
For those wondering, I did eventually unlock the R8. While it was fun to drive on my iPod Touch, I'm fairly certain that driving on a twisty mountain road would be infinitely more fun.