Review: Table Top Racing
Were you the kind of kid that really liked playing with miniature cars? My brother and I definitely were. We’d use anything from the local park’s picnic table to the stair’s banisters as a venue for our races. It didn’t matter that the cars would always fall to the wayside. It was all about getting to the other side first. The objects in our way only added to the challenge. Table Top Racing from Playrise Digital promised to bring that experience to mobile devices last year as a free-to-play title. Does its PS Vita rendition do justice to that concept while balancing itself as a paid model with micro-transactions? I’m happy to say that Table Top Racing succeeds at bringing those memories to life but falters in delivering a fully fleshed out product.
Booting up Table Top Racing for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard that some of the development staff previously worked on the WipEout series, while the game had been compared to the likes of MotorStorm R.C. and Galoob’s Micro Machines games. Interestingly, I was never reminded of anti-gravity racing while playing this game. The controls just aren’t as tight or as unforgiving as WipEout can be. There’s definitely inspiration from the top-down racers like Micro Machines, though it’s mainly limited to an alternate track angle.
While the WipEout connection may not be seen in-game, there’s definitely signs of the tech wizards that ran Psygnosis/SCE Liverpool. Table Top Racing is one of Vita’s better looking games in the genre. The tracks are brought to life with crisp and colourful visuals, while all running at a solid frame rate.
Table Top Racing is more comparable to kart racers like Modnation and Mario Kart. After a slow introduction, the game doesn’t stop being fast. As the eight tracks are based on things like barbecues, picnics, work benches and toy stores, the loose controls make it fun to manoeuvre around the many objects that could stop you dead. That is once you know the control inputs. Though the game is simple, due to muscle memory you may find yourself a bit lost at first. I had initially assumed gas was mapped to the right bumper when in actuality it’s set to the X button and/or the right analog stick. You cannot remap the controls at all and while it’s since been rectified in a patch, early versions of the game didn’t even feature a control layout.
I’ll alleviate some fears about the game’s economy: despite having in-app purchases originating from a free-to-play game, Table Top Racing on Vita doesn’t require additional fees to advance. I played through everything the game has to offer without spending anything more than the original price of admission. Inquiring minds will see that the only items available to purchase from the PlayStation Store are pieces of in-game currency. The prices for the coins range between $1.49 for 125,000 to $4.49 for 1,000,000. The coins can then be exchanged for new vehicles or additions to current vehicles like new wheels, paint jobs and performance upgrades. Outside of buying the currency with real money, you earn it by completing events and earning three star ratings. The spoils are generous enough that I can only see those impatient enough to unlock a high cost vehicle early on being tempted to pay.
Most of your coins will be going towards the 17 vehicles anyway. Customization is limited in Table Top Racing to just preset options. Given this game was designed for platforms with touch interfaces, one would expect at least custom paint jobs. There’s also no balancing act while upgrading your vehicle’s performance. Building a faster car doesn’t hinder its ability to turn, for example. It’s all linear progression. There’s an attempt at non-cosmetic customization through the wheels and vehicles that are tailored towards specific usage, but it’s all very obvious.
Table Top Racing’s single player modes include Championships, Special Events, Quick Races and Drift Events with a range of difficulty options. Championships and Special Events both feature a variety of different race configurations. You have traditional options like last-man standing elimination races, time trials, pursuit and more. Championships sees racers go through a series of competitions to crown a season victor while Special Events lets you take on specially designed challenges individually. Quick Races allows users to try all of the game’s race conditions on any of the tracks at any difficult setting. Drifting has players shred rubber through exaggerated turns to beat the game’s high scores. I struggled with that. While I found the Championships to be a breeze, once I had to slow down and smoke tread I felt like I was playing a different game. There were specific events that really seemed to be designed against the player, such as the ones where the difference between the second and first place totals was considerably higher than the amount between third and second. It’s certainly doable as I did eventually perfect all of the drift challenges, but it’s by far the hardest part of the game.
While none of Table Top Racing’s modes are particularly original, there is an impressive amount of content in the single player events. There are over 40 different challenges just in Championships.
Multiplayer options appear to offer the same flexibility in event choices. I wasn’t able to get a match going to test firsthand due to community inactivity. If you do get an online match going, you’ll be limited to randoms as the game does not support PSN invites or lobbies. Though it does have an extensive online leaderboard system where you can view high scores for each individual track and more.
While the core gameplay is enjoyable and the amount of content is impressive, Table Top Racing is missing too much to become a standout.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Fun, arcade-style racing
- Large amount of content
- Strong technical performance
What I Dislike:
- Limited customization
- Uneven difficulty