For some inexplicable reason I agreed to reviewing a racing game, though I must admit it was my decision and I did say that I’d like to broaden my range of games. Could Table Top Racing be the first racing game to convert this self-confessed anti-gearhead into liking a racing game? The results are very interesting.
Being quite the racing novice – seriously, I was totally embarrassed when I got disqualified from a racing game event because I couldn’t make it to the finish line – I was a little nervous when I started the game. I opened the menu only to be welcomed with a very animated image of an Ice-cream van, a Safari Truck and a Surfer’s Combie being launched off a kitchen table– at this point I knew I was going to latch onto the kookiness of the game.
The main menu contains the usual racing game options, but it’s simple and touch operated for efficiency. There are four options: Garage, a place for you to buy/ upgrade vehicles using the in-game currency (which you can also buy using real money); Let’s Race!, which takes you to another menu containing the difference tracks and races; Network, where you can play against other people online; and options, where you can either mute the music and sound effects or view the credits.
Moving on swiftly to the racing section of the game, you have a fairly small selection of options. You can immediately opt for the championships if you want to get familiar with the game. The other options include Drift mode, Special events and Quick Race. The Championships each have four tournaments and you’ll earn a brand new vehicle for each three-star trophy you win. Each tournament houses a number of races which you need to beat in order to unlock the final race and win the trophy. These races have different objectives, from reaching the end of the track before the time runs out to knock out races. Some races will test your racing prowess while others will require you to use weapons to beat the other players. No matter what the outcome, you must come first, second or third in order to move on to the next set of races. Coming fourth ain’t gonna cut it.
The controls are very simple and there’s practically no learning curve needed. Left analogue stick controls your direction, x button for accelerate and shoulder buttons execute certain moves. Pressing the back panel allows you to see behind you, a nice feature, but I’d prefer a little mini-map. In most races you’ll be able to pick-up floating boxes in the game. Depending on the objective of the race you’ll receive different bonuses. During standard races, you’ll acquire a speed boost, a homing rocket, a mine or an EMP. The EMP can be used offensively to slow down your opponents, or it can be used defensively, to stop incoming homing rockets. There’s not a huge variety when it comes to the weapons, but in this case less is more. Fewer weapons means you’ll have less time learning how to use them effectively, giving you more time to acclimate yourself with the various maps. Because there is no mini-map, it’s kind of hard to predict how far you still need to go. There aren’t many tracks either, so you’ll get used to them in no time, but bored with them once you reach the Platinum Trophy Championship. A little more variety would’ve been welcome.
The great news is, the game runs extremely smooth, so you can expect the response rate to be excellent. I did have a few hiccups though, but they are few and far between. On top of that, the set pieces are really creative and quite pretty, but it doesn’t push the Vita’s graphical capabilities to its limit. Seeing little ice-cream vans race against a hotdog van on a sushi themed table is very entertaining. But certain objects have a purpose. That triangular-shaped sandwich can be used to launch your car in the air and bypass certain turns. Hidden pathways between fences and toy blocks can also be used as shortcuts. They’re not easy to find, but once you do, they’ll make the game much easier, so you’ll earn a better score, get more money and buy more upgrades or vehicles in the garage.
The garage has a fairly decent assortment of cars, 17 in total, but most of them will take you some time to buy as they are expensive and still need upgrading. While you do win lots of money from the races, it’s definitely a lot easier for you to just buy coins, something that is very clear the game wants you to do. On the top right-hand corner of the garage menu, you’ll see a pulsating “buy coins” option. Also, if you want to buy something but you don’t have enough coins and accidentally select purchase, the game will send you to the ‘buy coins’ section in the PS store – it’s clever, and they have every right to do that, but it might not sit well with some people (it’s not a game-breaker though). You can also buy wheels, which provides you with specific upgrades in the game, like a shield wheel or a spike wheel.
The one thing that I absolutely despised in this game are certain sound effects. The music is great and pleasing to the ear, though there’s not a great variety when it comes to the soundtracks. The one thing that annoyed me to no end was the engine buzzing noise. All you could hear for the entire race is Neerrrrrr neerrrrr nerrrrrrr. I wanted to tone the sound effects down a bit, but the options menu only allowed for me to mute the sound effects or the music.
While I’m not a convert yet, this game (and Mario Kart 8) has opened the racing door a little bit. There are more high points than low points to this game, and the fact that I did enjoy playing it is a sign that you might enjoy it as well. It’s fun, a little crazy and very colourful.