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Table Top Racing

Platform(s): PlayStation Vita
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Ripstone Publishing
Developer: Playrise Digital
Release Date: Aug. 5, 2014 (US), Aug. 6, 2014 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS Vita Review - 'Table Top Racing'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 19, 2014 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Table Top Racing is a micro combat racer that pits all manner of custom-made, miniaturized cars against one another.

For a system that's a little more than two years old, the PlayStation Vita has quite a number of racing games in its library. Players looking for more serious ventures can go with Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Ridge Racer or Wipeout 2048. For the more casual crowd, Motorstorm RC does a good job of covering the isometric racer. Ben 10: Galactic Racing, Modnation Racers: Road Trip and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed have the kart racing crowd covered. What's interesting is that all of those titles came in during the system's first year, and unless you want to count Cel Damage HD as a racing game, no other racing game has been released for the handheld. Table Top Racing, a port of an iOS game, marks an end to that drought, but can it compete with some of the bigger titles on the system?

Table Top Racing comes equipped with five different modes, all of which are beefy in their own right. The main mode is Championships, where you have four different classes to work through that are spread across 16 tracks. Since the cars have a miniature theme, every track has you racing in some unusual environments, like a Japanese restaurant, a garage workbench, a picnic table, and a kid's bedroom, just to name a few. Each race is quick five-minute session, and your performance is graded on a three-star scale. The cash earned from each race can be used to upgrade your current vehicle or buy a new one, each with different stats.

The races vary greatly in type. You have standard races with and without turbo pickups. You have elimination races and time trials. Then there are ones where you need to chase down and tag your opponent in a set amount of time. All of these events are mixed into each championship stage, so there's little opportunity for tedium to set in.

The basic racing elements are fine. The tracks are designed well enough, so the turns and straightaways are laid out in just the right spots to make things exciting. There are even a few shortcuts available for those who are willing to look, and a number of pits keep things interesting. Though it feels slower when compared to some other kart racing games on the system, there's a good sense of speed on the vehicles, so it never feels like you can't catch up to your opponents.

The problem with the racing occurs when you try to go beyond the basics into more nuanced territory. To put it bluntly, none of that stuff really exists. Turbo boosts are there, but they last for such a short time and don't provide that much of a boost. There's no pre-race boosting, which is expected from arcade-style racers nowadays. Trying to powerslide ends up slowing down your vehicle more than actually taking the time to apply the brakes. Perhaps the most problematic issue is the weapons, which are limited to begin with and feel like they have little to no impact on the race. In addition to the turbo boost, you can access a missile that only fires forward, a bomb that can only be set behind you, and an EMP blast that affects anyone close to you. These are pretty basic weapons that don't expand when you got further into the game, but what makes them almost useless is that they have little to no impact on opponents when you hit them. Instead of stopping them upon impact, each weapon merely slows them down. You can overtake an opponent after hitting them with a weapon, but the extreme rubber-band AI means they can easily catch up without using any weapons because the slowdown from weapon impact is minimal.

Beyond the Championships mode, you have Challenges, which takes on some of the modes presented in Championships but adds more restrictions to each bout. A few of these challenges allow you to use any vehicle you want, but others force you to use a specific vehicle to perform the necessary tasks in a single lap. The other mode is Drifting, where you score points on the same tracks by performing long drifts. Here, you can only use one car, so you'll be out of luck if you outfit other vehicles with drift capabilities. In both modes, there are plenty of levels to tackle, so the game is pretty lengthy for those who want to complete and unlock everything.

Speaking of unlocking, Table Top Racing has a holdover from its mobile roots in the form of microtransactions, which allow you to score specific coin amounts from the beginning to buy new vehicles and upgrades. It feels unnecessary since the amount of cash you earn in the game is more than enough to unlock everything. With the game costing $7.99 instead of being "freemium," there's no reason for microtransactions to exist in this iteration.

The final mode is multiplayer, which comes in both local ad-hoc and Internet flavors. As expected, the local multiplayer performs well, and the game is a little more fun with human opponents rather than the AI. All of the modes from the solo game are available, so you can always mix things up. Online play, however, is dead. There was no one online who's willing to play the game at any time of the day. Unless you have lots of local friends, consider this game to be a single-player experience.

For a budget title, the graphics are pretty good. The environments are well detailed, with nary a blurred texture, and the amount of variety in the track layout is impressive. There's a nice sense of scale to the objects in relation to the cars, so those looking to re-create a Micro Machines vibe will find this to be a big plus. Like the environments, the cars are nicely detailed in both the car selection screen and on the track, even with the limited viewpoint during races, and the frame rate remains steady. The only bothersome aspect in this area is the weapons, which lack a punch when they hit their targets. Having a player hit a bomb looks unimpressive due to the small puff of black smoke that appears once the bomb is detonated, and getting hit with a missile is even less impressive due to the size of the missile and the much smaller accompanying explosion. Then there's the EMP blast, which is so faint that you might not even notice that you've been hit.

While the graphics are good enough, the sound doesn't aspire to hit those same heights. The music is a medley of generic rock instrumentals that hit different rock types but are ultimately forgettable. The sounds of the engines never vary, and they drone on while you're racing, an effect that is amplified when more racers are on-screen. The weapon effects, however, are muted, and just like their performance in the game, it the weapons don't sound like they make much of an impact. What's also interesting is the fact that collision sounds are completely missing. Hearing nothing when you run into a track barrier or another car is very strange for a racing title, and it makes the game feel cheaper than it should be.

In the end, Table Top Racing is a fine port. It brings the mobile game to the Vita without losing anything in the translation. However, what was there was of mixed quality, and not much was done to improve the experience. For the $7.99 price tag, Table Top Racing can be fun enough, but if you don't mind paying more, there are certainly other racing games on the Vita that can provide a better experience.

Score: 6.0/10

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