Sunday, September 7, 2014

Table Top Racing Review PlayStation Vita

Introduction

Table Top Racing is a fun little game that was born on iOS and Android mobile phones, but made its way to the PlayStation Vita where it truly belonged. Table Top Racing was brought to the device by the minds inside of PlayRise Digital’s developers. They are a development team who have been behind over a dozen games on Xbox and PlayStation whose exploits are headlined by Wipeout and Wipeout 2097/XL. Without a doubt, Table Top Racing can bring you and your friends many an hour of enjoyment burning rubber out on the race track.  It’ll run you exactly $7.99 to buy it in the North American PlayStation Store 





I bought Table top Racing on the first day it released after only learning of the game the night prior to its release. What could have possibly made this decision for me? Well, I did this partially because for PlayStation Plus members there was a promotion for 20% off the title for the first week of its life on the PlayStation Store. As it was roughly $6 to try it,  it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a go, although this wasn’t the only reason I bought the title. 

The night before Table Top Racing sped into the North American store, Nick Burcombe (the main developer on the project) came onto Reddit’s PlayStation IRC channel to talk about his game and its fast approaching release. This as it would turn out is the main reason I ended up buying the game. It was incredibly refreshing to hear Mr. Burcombe talk about his game’s release and all sorts of details about what would be included with the game, such as how it was a game in the vein of Micro Machines. I was told the price and about the PS+ discount that would be offered. Neither of these details had been released officially, not even on Sony’s PlayStation Blog! Also worthy of note is that during the course of the visit that even general conversation unrelated to the game was had, it wasn’t wholly an advertising run. It was a truly great and engaging experience to have . I felt connected to the game and as a result it earned my purchase. I still didn’t even know if the game was truly a great game, so I had to find out as soon as I could. The second it was available on the store I had my order in and I was waiting for it to download. 


Downloading & First Impressions

Once I got into Table Top Racing after it finally finished downloading and installing, I was hooked. Only a few races had gone by and I knew this was a game that I was going to be playing for a long time to come. It’s actually a rather simple game, which I believe is part of the charm the game exudes as you go through the menu and play the game.

It is not by any means the most in-depth title you can find that’s in the racing genre on the Vita or on consoles in general. One won’t be able to visually customize your vehicles a hundred different ways nor will he be able to cycle through dozens of vehicles to race with. Upgrading a car’s performance has even been reduced to 5 separate categories. This is hardly a detraction, in my opinion. It means that you, you and your kid(s), or a friend can pick up this game and start playing without needing to worry about a lot of fancy details or controls. You’ll get in your car and race around the tracks, which is one thing that makes this game rather unique. 




True to its name, all the races take place on tracks that are on your table top, in different rooms of a home with varying situations such as a sunny day or a dark night with the moon looking in through the window. These courses further incorporate into the aesthetic all sorts of assorted items that you’ll see as you’re trying to get to the finish line. On one course you can go around a corner to pass an oil can laying on its side. Another corner of a separate track will find you speeding in between two drums. All these little things go to set a tone you’ll feel when sitting down and playing for a while. It’s something that’s quite hard to convey and is best experienced for yourself. 

In Table Top Racing, both the front and rear touch pads are used, although the latter can be disabled (which given what it does is quite fortunate for some people). The front touch pad will is used to navigate the menus and the various options one finds in front of them while going through them, while the rear touch pad serves the function of allowing you to take peeks behind you at the competition hot on your tail to plot your next move if need be. Luckily for myself (as my fingers tend to slip and touch that area) you can in the menu disable and re-enable at will the option to look behind you. I’ve never had the need to look behind me so I don’t miss the option much at all. 



In-depth

There are a lot of ways to experience the game, so let’s get to know them well. 

Game Modes

Table Top Racing has 5 main game modes to play. These are as follows:

  • Championships Mode - This mode features four events featuring a total of 40 races and 4 championships. Each mode gets progressively harder with more races to complete each time.  By the time you reach the end you’ll have had a hard fought battle to be victorious and you’ll have bought yourself a completely upgraded car, unless you’re a much more skillful player than I. 
  • Drift Mode - There are 26 Drift Events between the two difficulties available; Pro and Expert. The goal is to rack up the most points drifting as you can, there is even a trophy related to this so if you’re exceptionally good at it there’ll be an extra bonus in it for you. Something that makes this mode special is that you need to use a particular car and you are not allowed to use any other. To beat these races it’ll just be you and your Tokyo Zero.
  • Special Mode - Special Events cover four ranges of difficulty, Rookie/Amateur/Pro/Expert, over 48 races. In certain races you are allowed to select whatever car you wish to try the match with, but others, as you start climbing the difficulty ladder, take a page from the Drift Event’s handbook and requires you to use a specific vehicle. You’ll need to use at least ten different vehicles in total between all the races.
  • Quick Race Mode - Quick Race allows you to choose any track, difficulty, car, type of race, and whether the race is done forward (normal) or backwards (reverse).
  • Multiplayer Mode - Multiplayer mode, both online and local, allows you to to join a room with up to three other people to face off and see who is the best driver. You can choose your car, difficulty, and the track.


For you trophies hunters out there, I’d like to toss in a mention there that the three main racing options, Championship Mode/Drift Mode/Special Events, each have their own corresponding trophy for getting to 100%. Two silvers and one gold are up for grabs. Table Top Racing does not have a Platinum trophy to be obtained.

Race Modes

Each race in any of the modes is one of five different races:
  • Hot Lap - You race against the clock in order to complete the race in a certain amount of time. You get 1 turbo boost to help you on your way, but the rest is up to you.
  • Elimination - You race against the other drivers to be #1, but don’t lag behind; as each lap the last person in line will be eliminated from competition. Make your moves early, because you might not have another chance anytime soon.
  • Pursuit - A car is given a bit of a head start and you have a limited amount of time to catch up. It’ll take some slick moves to catch up, but you’ll have a little help like in the Hot Lap race where you get a single turbo to assist you. 
  • Combat - In this mode you’ll have full use of all the power ups in the game in your race to the finish. Use any means necessary to get to the front, because your foes won’t be showing you any mercy.
  • Pure Race - Pure Race is exactly as it reads. No power ups are available to help you win at this you’ll need nothing more than your best racing skills on hand.
 A sticky issue for some people is that Table Top Racing offers in-app purchases for coins which are used on everything in the game be it buying new vehicles, changing your car’s paint color,  or upgrading these cars. The developers of the game insist that it is not at all necessary to buy these coins to advance in the game and that everything can be achieved through normal gameplay. This is just an option for people who want to experience the whole game more quickly than would be necessitated by grinding it out race after race. I cannot 100% guarantee to you that they are not lying through their teeth as I haven’t beaten every race to earn every coin thus enabling myself to unlock everything, but I honestly tend to believe them in this matter. I’ve come incredibly far in the game earning a good deal of coins and upgrading to the maximum several vehicles with coins left over to spare. Part of my reasoning behind believing them is that while you are only able to earn coins for beating a race once, you aren’t in fact limited to earning them only through stars or obtaining them through in-app purchases.

In fact, you can purchase an upgrade that gains additional coins for an up-front cost of 15,000 coins, which is a pittance even in terms of what the game gives you for winning races by the bare minimum, to unlock for all your vehicles “Bling Wheels”. These wheels, aptly named, give you coins for all the skidding you do making turns and such while in a race. In a standard matchup you can earn a great deal of coins. The most I’ve ever won in a single race was 600 and the lowest I ever got was in the mid 100s. You can use these bling wheels while replaying any race that suits you and as a result earn the most coins possible. 


Wrap-up

To put it all as simply as possible,  if you are a fan of kart racers or if you merely want to have a great game to sink some time into you would have a hard time finding a better game than Table Top Racing considering the value it provides in gameplay versus the price. The amount of gameplay at your fingertips is certainly quite impressive, featuring over 100 races in the three main modes of play. There can be a limitless amount of other races to be had between Quick Races and the Multiplayer as well. If you don’t own this game already, I would hope by reading this you have decided that you need to pull up to the starting line as quickly as possible and drive straight into everything you’ve been missing out on.