Smash Cops offers the best 1970s car chase handling you're likely to get on iOS. Hutch's debut battle-racer asks you to place your finger behind your dinky little police cruiser and steer from the rear, tapping with a second digit when you want to pull off a recharging ram attack on a fleeing perp. It's a system that's strongly reminiscent of playing with your toys on the carpet, and it offers fish-tailing drama at each corner, while still bringing a sharp arcade precision to all those fender-bending impacts.
Hutch gets the wider atmosphere right, as well, delivering a TV news crew's riff on Chase HQ in which your frantic pursuits are framed from above, accompanied by the squeal of sirens and the rhythmic thump of chopper blades. Art assets aren't unduly detailed, but gorgeous lighting stains the screen with the pale gold of a Californian afternoon, and the whole thing's pleasantly gratuitous in the manner of a good tabloid headline. "Suspect Arrested!" shouts the interface. Actually, we sent him flying through the air in a blizzard of flame and broken picket fencing, but close enough.
Smash Cops makes such a dazzling early impression that it's almost tragic when things start to slide. Long story short: micro-transactions. When your start screen gives players the option to pay to unlock the entirety of the campaign from the off, it should be little surprise when people start to question your approach to balancing progression difficulty. Equally, as soon as you allow players to buy (or, granted, earn through playing certain challenges) a doubly-fast, doubly-durable Super Cop power-up to ease the pains of tricky levels, you start to wonder why the basic cars seem so sluggish and limp in comparison.
Add to that a selection of repeating mission types that struggle to match the freewheeling pleasures of the handling, and you've got an acceptable game rising from the foundations of a great one. Hutch has proved it can do amazing things with Apple's touchscreen but, this time at least, it's provided dubious implementation of almost everything else.