The original Hill Climb Racing was something of a misnomer given that it was a single player game with no actual racing involved. The sequel addresses this and features four vehicle cross country racing. Hill Climb 2 has topped the app charts and the game's leader board is filled with thousands of players from all over the world. It is a lot of fun and it certainly adds excitement to the game as you speed past Joe from USA and Jim from Bulgaria on your way to winning a race.
It is all very slickly presented so it took me a while to realise that there is some slight of hand going on. It wasn't until I noticed that you can pause and restart races that it dawned on me that I wasn't racing other players in real time. The game actually pits you against pre-recorded runs by other players in asychronous multiplayer.
Asychronous multiplayer is very common in mobile games and I have tried several where you create an army or a base which other players can attack while you are away. This tends to be a very stale affair though because attacking AI controlled troops can never compare to the excitement of a human opponent. In a race game the illusion is much better. The recorded player drives just as they would in real life. They struggle at the same tricky bits and they speed up to try and steal a victory at the end in recording just as they do in real life.
There are many advantages to asychronous multiplayer in this case. You can race whenever you want and never have to wait for suitable opponents. It also allows every player to be a winner or at least to win more often than they lose.
Does knowing that it is an illusion spoil it at all? Perhaps a little. My thrill at crushing Joe from the USA is a little diminished when I realise that Joe is oblivious to it. Indeed Joe may actually have won the race the first time that particular run was recorded. For all I know strings are secretly bring pulled by the boffins of free to play to ensure each player achieves the optimum win loss ratio for monetisation.
Asychronous racing could have real world applications especially if used with virtual reality. Amateurs could pit themselves against Olympic athletes and those same athletes could train using past races of their competitors.