Gumball 3000 is the closest thing on mobile to a Cruis'n USA. The game is based on a real annual event in which contestants drive from London to Firenze in six days, stopping each night to partake in a raucous party. So it's basically a test of how well you can drive when you're hungover. Gumball 3000 mobile takes place across the pond, and spans roughly the same distance--you'll drive from San Francisco to Miami in six sessions. Gumball has a number of cool power-ups, as well as a cool gate-crashing metagame that makes it more than just a cross-country racer. Even with some slight performance issues, this is one of the most original and ultimately enjoyable mobile racers, and it promises quite a bit of longevity for dedicated players.
Each leg of the Gumball 3000 takes about 10 minutes to complete, which means that a full run-through of the race takes about an hour. Fortunately, the game will save your progress at each municipal checkpoint (which are usually recognizable as the cities they represent), making Gumball 3000 perfect to fill those unwelcome moments of serenity throughout the day. Actually, the game can be rather meditative, much like real traffic-free highway driving. Watching the scenery slowly change from desert to urban sprawl and back again is nicely pacifying, and it isn't something you'll find in any other mobile game. Things can also be nail-bitingly tense, though, as you grind opponents into barriers or try to lose them by flying through busy intersections.
Throughout the races, you'll encounter gates with numerical values atop them. These represent the amount of points you'll net by passing each golden arch. Every time you successfully tear through one of these, the point value of the next archway will be increased by 100 points. Of course, if you miss a gate, your combo bonus will be reset. If you find yourself miles ahead of the pack, earning points in this way will keep you entertained.
A few power-ups line the highways of Gumball 3000. Often, these will appear right after a gate, making it difficult to both pass through the gates and collect these glowing orbs. It's absolutely worthwhile to obtain power-ups, however, as their effects are both helpful and tremendously entertaining. For example, one orb, appropriately called "X-File," summons a giant UFO that blocks out the sky and abducts any cars in your path. Another item temporarily equips your vehicle with a police siren, keeping the fuzz off your tail while allowing you to drive 20mph faster than is normally possible.
Although Gumball 3000 generally looks excellent, and features recognizable US landmarks, we encountered some frame rate issues on the Motorola V551. Such problems aren't uncommon on this device, however, and those with superior handsets will likely avoid these performance issues. The great background music track was unaffected by the slowdown, and it is indeed one of the catchiest in a mobile racing game. It combines the low-fi MIDI charm of old-school NES music with the break beats and compositional sophistication of modern drum 'n' bass. This is one instance in which you'll want to leave the sound on, although you'll eventually tire of the repetition.
With several distinct environments and four sports cars, each catering to a different play style, Gumball 3000 is highly replayable. You'll want to reprise your transcontinental journey several times, avoiding police and thwarting the competition. Gumball 3000 is a breath of fresh exhaust in a download section populated by street-racing also-rans. The format of its races might bore NASCAR fans, but the innovative driving game will do just fine for most everyone else.