Review: Table Top Racing (PSV)

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Title: Table Top Racing
Format: PlayStation Network Download (497 MB)
Release Date: August 5, 2014 (NA) / August 6, 2014 (EU)
Publisher: Ripstone Games
Developer: Playrise Digital
Original MSRP: $7.99/ £4.99/ €5.99/
ESRB Rating: E
Table Top Racing is also available on iOS.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
When I had the opportunity to play an early build of this game at GDC I was hooked immediately. Of course, when any game is still months out, you tend to worry that something horrible will happen that completely ruins the experience. Fortunately, that didn’t happen this time. Table Top Racing conjures nostalgia from the moment you launch it on your Vita, bringing back memories of Micro Machines on the NES and some other games throughout gaming history, but that’s where the similarities end.

Originally released on iOS, Playrise Digital considers the Vita version of the game to be the definitive way to play it, The environments have all been “improved”, including double the polygon count in the tracks, (what I perceive to be) a solid 60 frames per second, and retooled handling to work with the Analog Controller (instead of motion controls as on iOS devices). Controls are very well implemented, and I never once had an issue with how they respond.

For eight bucks, there’s a lot of content available. Not only is there online play (which I’ll cover farther down the page), but the amount of content in Single Player is plentiful as well. You’ve got eight tracks to race on, and seven vehicles to choose from, all of which you can upgrade over time. You’ll have four modes to choose from, including Championship, Drift Events, Special Events, and Quick Race. Championship is essentially your Career mode, offering a progression through events such as Speed Trial, Hot Lap, Elimination, Races with and without weapons, and Pursuit. These all lead-in to the Season Finale which has you run three races with full weapons in an attempt to build the most amount of Race Points across all three races.

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Each race in the Championship Mode allows you to earn up to three stars, and depending on how you do, you’ll earn a decent amount of coins which are used to purchase new cars and upgrade any of the five attributes for each car (Top Speed, Grip, Acceleration, Armor, and Turbo.) Each car has a different maximum amount available in each of these five categories, so no matter what, each will have its own strengths and weaknesses. The other modes are just as deep, such as the “Special Events” section which offers twelve races per difficulty, with four difficulties available.

The breadth of racing game experience at Playrise is palpable, with members of the team that previously worked on, among other things, the Wipeout series. Table Top Racing has the feel of a mature racer and not merely an attempt to make a quick buck on a mobile platform. At very rare times though it can still feel like a game made for a phone, but in quick flashes and nothing more. AI racers are well done for a mobile platform and at times can be downright nasty. As you progress through the Championship Events, the difficulty definitely rises, which to some may be a bit too much. I like that you can’t just walk through the game though, so feelings about the difficulty curve will vary from player to player.

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Visuals:
You’re not prepared for how well this game looks and runs on the Vita, at a solid 60fps, it’s quite stunning. The generous use of HDR lighting and bloom looks gorgeous for the most part, but I will admit that occasionally the lighting seems over saturated though that doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

The game is incredibly smooth, and environments are varied and full of detail. I do love the fact that the screen even leans left and right when you’re taking sharp turns which adds to the experience quite a bit.

The eight available tracks are well laid-out and all play great. I alluded to the Micro Machines game on the NES, and it’s easy to realize that a game called Table Top Racing will have a certain theme. It’s a lot of fun to race across the tables of a picnic and with a Chinese theme, and being pushed into a muffin by an opponent is something you won’t experience in many places. As far as I can tell, you’ll only be able to race from a third-person perspective, but in this case I think that’s probably the only way that would be effective.

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In weapons-free races, you’ll pick-up boxes as you would in other “Kart Racers” (even though this is much more than you’re average Kart Racer), giving you items such as Bombs (Mines), EMP Blasts, Homing Missiles, and Speed Burst (Turbo). Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be a cheap one in the mix, so no Blue Shell cheating in this one.

Effects are fun too, with rockets bursting into a small fireworks display and sparks flying when your Turbo is activated. Seeing how everything looks, this makes me want to see a new version pop-up on the PS4. Even the car designs all possess a unique blend of cartoony silliness and badassery (I especially like the Weinermobile, a tribute to the Oscar Meyer vehicle that crosses the US every year.)

Audio:
The audio is quite good overall. Sound and racing effects are well done but it would be nice to get some sounds from the environments themselves. With the variety of locales there’s a good opportunity to add some “flavor” from each of them, but there doesn’t seem to be anything from the backgrounds.It’s a small gripe for such a deep game though and really more of a personal want.

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The music is good but not great, and I found myself switching to my personal soundtracks that I have loaded on my Vita’s Memory Card. I do recommend wearing headphones for this one too, as it really helps pull you into the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
Table Top Racing lets you play against up to three other people in either Local Ad-hoc or Online. I wasn’t able to try the Ad-hoc mode, but I was able to play quite a few Online races with someone in the UK, and it went really well.

Setting a lobby up is easy, allowing you to set a specific track or let it randomly choose one and you can set the overall difficulty of the room as well. Unfortunately, there’s no voice support within the game. So yes, you can use the Vita’s party system, but having voice support for random races would still be really nice to have.

With my overseas opponent the overall performance was quite good, but we had the occasional instance of teleporting during a race. It would have been nice to get a full four-player race going, so there is a possibility that performance could be affected in that climate. If it does, I’ll update this review to reflect that.

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Conclusion:
Table Top Racing on the Vita isn’t just a simple port from a phone, it’s a full-fledged racer with a ton of content and real Online play. There’s very little to complain about beyond the music and lack of voice chat in Online play. There’s a great variety of cars and tracks, and the fact that all of the cars have different strengths and weaknesses just adds to the strategy in approaching the challenges that await.

It’s hard to believe that this game costs eight bucks (even less with PlayStation Plus at launch). Table Top Racing is a great value for the amount of high quality gameplay included. I can’t recommend this one enough for racing fans that enjoy some whimsy at the same time. I just hope this does well enough to convince the team at Playrise to bring the franchise to the PS4.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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  • ChazzH69

    I’m so glad this game turned out great on the PS Vita. Looking forward to playing it.

  • Derek / Beaver6622

    After this review I’m downloading it now. I loved Micro Machines as a kid and always wanted that game play experience again. Nice review by the way Glennnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

  • Thanks for the amazing review! It means a lot to the team 🙂

  • David Sodee

    Another great review and game to pick up and it is cheap !!! Nice !!