Geopod is a futuristic racing title that lives in the realm of fictional racing like Ubisoft’s POD or Psygnosis’ Wipeout. The latter two titles were significant milestones on the PC and PSOne respectively. It not only raised the bar for a genre, it helped move graphical expectations for an entire platform. Fathammer’s Geopod, in its style, execution and technical achievement, can most certainly reach a similar mantle for Pocket PC gaming.
Racing with futuristic looking hovercrafts, Geopod puts you through the paces for three gravity defying tracks that twist and loop around like a Polish sausage link. Featuring single and championship race modes, the five hovercrafts you have at your disposal also qualify for upgrades, where you can upgrade attributes like engines or armor. All in all, Fathammer doesn’t disappoint. They obviously know what’s expected of them in racing titles and the whole console arcade racer is executed nicely.
Quite unfortunately, they missed one part about these console style racing games. For starters, there’s not a lot of depth or progression to the game, especially since there’s only three tracks. I actually thought there would be more tracks to unlock, secret cars to discover and more upgrade parts. That linear progression is the key to keeping simple arcade racers fun, addictive and most importantly, artificially creating a long shelf life. Alas, none of that can be found here, drastically shortening the lifetime of Geopod.
You’ll want to keep this around on your PDA though. Geopod has one of the best 3D engines going for it, par excellence, on the Pocket PC. It doesn’t have the glamorous anti-aliasing and motion blur of modern 3D racers, but it has irrefutably gotten to the point where the relatively primitive textures are beginning to rival what was seen in Psygonsis’ Wipeout. Given the sci-fi setting, it’s actually fitting, since there’s no need for realistic asphalt textures when the tracks are filled with bright colors and vibrant lights. Effects like lens flare and vehicle shadows all take center stage in the game. All of this happens impeccably and Geopod doesn’t require a fancy XScale processor with an ATI graphics accelerator to run – definitely something we should keep an eye on in future Fathammer titles, Geopod or not.
While the engine is great, the piece de resistance has to be reserved for another component. Geopod ships with head to head multiplayer racing that supports two Wi-Fi enabled PDAs playing against each other. Like the Game Boy Advance, you’ll be hard pressed to find similar hardware to play against, unless you’re in a place where everything is homogenously Wi-Fi and Pocket PC altogether (work, campus, et al). However, there’s no denying Geopod’s multiplayer feature is a forward-looking one that makes up for the lack of variety and depth when playing Geopod solo.
Judging Geopod is a tough call. It’s an inherently simple game. The arcade racer is a genre almost done to death, yet Geopod fleetingly exhibits the charm and brilliance of Wipeout and POD. It’s unfortunate that a lack of material, especially in the number of tracks, prevents the game from extending its own lifetime. Like its setting, Geopod is very much about the future. It gives us a glimpse of what to expect in terms of visuals for the Pocket PC, even in the absence of a dedicated 3D processor, accelerator, GPU or what have you. Insofar as multiplayer goes, it’s also setting the right tone for what the industry ought to be producing in 2003.
[08/10] Program Size
[10/15] Learning Curve