If like me you remember racing small cars over rulers on school desks, falling off snooker tables and running into beans on a breakfast table then you may well remember Micro Machines, a series of racing games from Codemasters running through the 90’s that allowed you to race on virtual table tops just like you would have with the real thing (Micro Machines that is). If that is the case then you will be well at home here. If not, then prepare to enjoy! Table Top Racing, published by Ripstone and available through the PSN store, has the same style of fast paced top down racing that the Micro Machines series was famous for, but it builds on that premise with a few extras to really offer you more horsepower for your cash.
The game is pretty straight forward as you will have the opportunity to race and battle A.I. and human opponents in single player and multiplayer fun around wait for it… Table tops! These Table tops contain tracks that weave through plenty of household items from toys to tools and picnic tables to bbq’s. Tracks are short but have plenty going on including the odd shortcut and are perfect for bite size racing which obviously suits the PS Vita’s portable nature. Racing in events and championships offers you the possibility of earning up to 3 stars per event which offers you in-game cash as well as xp!!!!! Cash is used in the garage which I will go into further on but the xp is an interesting addition that you wouldn’t normally find in such an accessible game. This xp grants you access to more events but unfortunately that’s it. I never felt that the xp was really contributing much to the game as it is and that It blocks off some of the higher level races for too long as you grind xp out just to unlock the odd extra event. It felt to me that the xp system should have been more integral to the game or just taken out completely, although I have a small feeling that it has something to do with the micro transactions which I shall cover further on. Now then I’m sure I said something about cash…
The garage is where you ‘ll go to use that lovely cash that you’ve earned to buy, customise and upgrade your motors. There is a fantastic selection of cars that can all be customised with different rims (that can offer their own perks as well as style) and a small selection of paint jobs. Each car also has its own stats that can be upgraded using the money that you acquire from winning races. These options alone offer a surprising amount of depth and genuinely affect your vehicle’s performance out on the track which is a welcome bonus to a pretty comprehensive title.
The amount of game modes available is just as impressive with time trials, normal races, battle races and pure speed races as well as elimination races that do a fine job of mixing things up within the championships. While drift challenges, quick races and special events, that cater for specific vehicles, round out the game along with an online and Ad Hoc multiplayer mode. As I said above there is a lot here for your money and you certainly wont be bored any time soon.
One of two gripes that I have with this game are the micro transactions that are present which offer the opportunity to purchase in-game cash, which in turn allows you to purchase more cars and upgrades. I must confess that micro transactions within a game that I have already paid for do not sit well with me. However, credit where credit is due, you are never asked to pay for any in-game money anywhere other than the garage menu and even then the option is tucked right up in the right hand corner of the screen. However, because this option is only confined to one area of the game, I do not find it at all intrusive and I do not feel pressured to purchase in-game money at all, but it is there should I wish to. Which I don’t! The other gripe I have is the amount of tracks available throughout the game. 8 certainly is not a bad number even with reverse courses bringing the count up to 16 but when you start to grind experience and those all important 3 star ratings you can get a little too familiar too quickly with the tracks available and I found myself on auto pilot towards the end of the game.
The games’ controls will be familiar with pretty much anyone the x button makes you go, the square button makes you stop and the D-pad or left analogue stick makes you turn. So far so good eh! The right and left shoulder buttons activate power ups if and when needed, the triangle button changes your view between 3 camera angles, 2 of these camera angles are more standard views but the 3rd view is a top down view that again brings in more comparisons to Micro Machines!
The games’ graphics are especially good with fully 3D cars and tracks that really set this apart from the Micro Machines that we all remember! (Well I do anyway) Vehicles are especially well crafted with camper vans, Camaro’s and Bugatti Veyrons being given the micro treatment to make them look squat and… well toy like! The tracks are also lovely to look at and are crammed full of detail that really helps to sell the idea that these are toy or RC racers.
Multiplayer is catered for here with an online and Ad Hoc mode as well as online leaderboards that cover every track, biggest drift and your online and world rank. Online racing allows you to choose any of your collected cars and any of the available tracks. Unfortunately at this time I have not been able to get online to test this part of the game out thoroughly when I do I will update the review.
I personally found Table Top Racing to be the most fun racer I have played in a long while and a great addition to the PS Vita. Even if I drop the comparison to Micro Machines there is more depth and fun here than most arcade racers out there and the only downside I can muster is that I would have liked a few more tracks just to add to the already impressive selection of cars and game modes available. The amount of gameplay available for your £5 is truly amazing value for money.
Overall then I cannot recommend Table Top Racing enough, even if you have never heard of Micro Machines. It’s a pocket-sized racer for a pocket-sized price and if you’re looking for a cheap, fun and smart racer then there is nothing better… NOTHING!
At A Glance
- Title: Table Top Racing
- Publisher: Ripstone
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Local Multiplayer: Yes (Ad hoc)
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 531Mb