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While simulation racers seem to be all the rage these days, it's nice to see something like Table Top Racing hit the track every now and again. Rather than focus on to-the-bolt vehicle accuracy, painfully deep optimization options and sterile menus and events, sometimes it's nice to jump behind the tiny wheel of a toy car, drop a bomb mine on your rivals and careen across a track that's been laid out across a messy kitchen counter. But does the fun under the hood of TTR measure up to that premise?
Originally released as a mobile game, the team at Playrise Digital have brought a new version of their fan-favorite Table Top Racing to the PlayStation Vita with some new mods bolted on for good measure. But while the game may blow the doors off of much of the competition on the mobile front, what's on offer here might be a little underwhelming for fans who have come to expect a bit more out of their Vita games.
Racing fans are usually number hounds, so lets just dive straight into the stats. Table Top Racing offers a handful of play modes, including a campaign boasting four championships (each with a couple dozen events to race through), online and ad-hoc multiplayer, drift challenges and quick race options. There are about a dozne cars to unlock, each with their own crop of stat, skin and wheel upgrades to dig into. Finally, there are eight tracks that will take you on a whirlwind tour of garage work benches, picnic tables and restaurant counters, each of which also boasts a reversed option.
Honestly, that's not a bad dose of content, especially when we're talking about a game that'll only set you back about six bucks. There are microtransactions available in the game, too, but those can actually be completely ignored. If you really can't wait to naturally progress through the game and earn all of your unlocks, you can spend some real world money in order to grab a bagful of in-game coins to purchase goodies more quickly. But game progression (and, thus, unlocks) moves at a decent clip, so there's really no need to invest more than the initial asking price.
The championships themselves are broken into a series of events and you'll frequently be given the choice of which order you want to tackle them in. These events are decently varied, including standard races, elimination races (avoid last place!), weapon races, time trials and events that have you taking on unique goals, like catching up to an opponent and ramming them within a certain amount of time. You'll earn coins for all of your efforts and stars, which unlock more events, for finishing within the top three goals (placing, time limit) for the individual event.
The better you do, the more coins you'll earn, which you'll then use to give your favorite ride a new paint job, wheels or stat boosts. You'll be driving everything from miniaturized sports cars to tiny jeeps, an ice cream truck, a bunny van and more.
All of this sounds great on paper, but a few major potholes prevent Table Top Racing from becoming an instant Vita hit. For starters, the presentation is a bit lackluster, with a dull soundtrack and sound effects going hand in hand with tracks that are as straightforward as they come. The best way I can describe it is to say that TTR feels like it's lacking any real sense of joy. I mean, you're racing toy cars across maps populated by giant bottles of ketchup, massive woodworking tools and sandwiches as big as a house, but nothing here feels larger than life, which is what these types of racers used to be really good at. This is further evident in the game's weapon choices, which are limited to a homing rocket, short speed boost, bomb mines and an EMP. They get the job done but, again, nothing about this arsenal feels inspired or particularly fun to use.
The game is further hampered by a painfully slow opening and uneven online play. Through your first dozen or so races, Table Top Racing moves at a snail's pace, with slow cars and easy events that lack any real challenge. Rest assured that as the game moves into the later championships, though, and you start to upgrade your favorite vehicles, the speed builds alongside the enemy AI. Racing games should be fast and furious from the onset, though, and I wouldn't blame folks for playing for an hour and then assuming that there's little more to offer. But if you give TTR time to build momentum, and the game will start to pour on the entertainment in far greater quantities. It's just a shame that it takes so long to get there.
As for online modes, there are no unified versions of the vehicles for players to choose from, which would have instantly silenced my big gripe with the competitive events. Players go into the race with whatever car they have equipped, so those racers who are just starting out will be paired with veterans who have managed to fully upgrade their favorite ride. Not such a bad thing when you're always in the winner's circle, but it can be extremely demoralizing when you haven't yet put together a beast on four wheels and you're racing against a field that has you bested long before the race even begins.
If you're able to muscle your way through the lagging early goings and stay away from online matches until you've build a car you can be proud of, then Table Top Racing is actually a dandy quick fix racer at a cheap price point. It's a decent start, but I'd love to see Playrise Digital get more creative and far more daring with a follow-up. The game nails all of the basics, with plenty of content, solid controls and serviceable weapons and courses, but the package feels a bit soulless overall. Toy racers are supposed to make you feel like a kid again, where everyday settings become breathtaking tracks and every race offers white-knuckle excitement. That was mostly lacking from Table Top Racing.
Platforms: PS Vita Developer: Playrise Digital
Publisher: Playrise Digital
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