- Format: PS Vita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Ripstone
- Developer: Playrise Digital
- Players: 1-4
- Site: http://www.playrisedigital.com/#!ttr/cpne
Table Top Racing is a successful mobile game with aspirations of being a handheld game. The port is technically very good; it runs smoothly, and plays as well as you’d expect a good arcade-y racer to play. It also sports microtransactions which, while not inherently bad, the game could have done away with and been better off for it.
It’s somewhat inspired by Micro Machines, with its tabletop theme and small courses filled with powerups, but never feels like those games – because the 3D element allows for things to be very different. There is an element of verticality where you can jump sections of the map with the jumping wheels, and cars can be flipped over.
The game modes are numerous; you have a standard race with powerups, one without powerups, an elimination race, a single lap time trial, multi-lap time trial with boost powerups, a catch a car within a certain time frame mode, and lastly a drift mode.
The three standard race modes were by far the least interesting modes to play; they lacked variety in setup, it was always a matter of ‘have a better car and don’t crash and you’ll win’. Once you get to the latter stages of the game, besides the difficulty increasing the game just decides that you have to play more laps in each race. Even though most laps are under 30 seconds in length, racing around that same track throughout the game with only faster cars and more laps as a change does get tedious after a while. It begins to feel samey very quickly and it’s not much fun when it gets to that point.
The most fun levels are the ones that involve no real competitive racing – the hot lap and the car catching levels feel a little puzzle-like in the way that they present themselves. Gunning it around the track only works with the first few – even if you have the fastest car, that option soon gets thrown out. You begin to have to solve what corners can be cut and where. Unfortunately it mostly devolves into you having one boost and taking the jumping wheels to dive over an obstacle. Once that is solved it’s just piecing together where the correct place and time is on each new level. It’s obviously trying something different with this but all the other wheels don’t work in the same way, they only add passive benefits or pure race benefits.
There are weapons scattered over the tracks in some of the game modes (or rather, three weapons and a boost). Mines, homing missiles and EMP blasts make up the offensive side of the pickups. Apparently they can all be used both offensively and defensively – as the loading screen tips keep telling us – but only the mines and EMP, which – respectively – destroys missiles/all offensive items and stalls opponents that are hit, fit that bill. Missiles only target opponents in front of you so if you get it while you are in first then it’s completely useless unless someone overtakes you. The boost? Not really sure how you categorise that with offensive or defensive characteristics.
The pickups you get are always random and the pick seems to have no bearing on whether you are in first or last place. It causes much imbalance, as those out in front can easily get boost after boost while those at the rear could be inundated with bombs. It feels like the game isn’t balanced to adjust for the fact that those who are winning can drive off into the distance and leave those behind with absolutely no hope of ever making up the ground between them.
The multiplayer game has no sense of balance; you can take whatever vehicle you want in there, so if you have a maxed out vehicle from one of the higher tiers then you are all but assured victory against those with less powerful vehicles. It seems strange that there aren’t tiers like with the more serious racing games, which would pit less powerful cars against each other so that faster cars don’t dominate.
As mentioned before; the microtransactions could have just been eliminated by making the game less of a grind for coins. Instead, not getting three stars in every event and championship under the sun will net you substantial time spent grinding coins to give you better cars/upgrades/wheels. The rate you earn coins is only really sufficient to upgrade frequently if you come first almost all the time. It’s a shame microtransactions were included; it makes its appearance on the Vita feel a little like a cynical cash grab rather than a proper port.
It’s not a bad game; it’s just fairly average because of how little there is to it that isn’t touched by the need to be very quick to play or riddled with grinding. The single player challenges all feel very similar after a while and the challenge is tied into how much time you’ve spent buying upgrades, more than it does on pure skill. The multiplayer is dead most of the time, so even if you did want to play, you’d have to seek out like-minded people for a chance at even playing it. It’s nice as a time waster but there isn’t enough variety to really enjoy it after a few sessions.