Vehicle combat in games can go one of two ways. One one hand you’ve got the games like Blur, which give fast and frantic racing with added weapons which feel fair, balanced and generally good fun. Then you’ve got something like Smash ‘n’ Survive which was, let’s face it, slightly less enjoyable and made me want to set fire to my PS3. So fast forward a couple of years and we have Table Top Racing, a game where tiny vehicle race around tables littered with everyday stuff in a way that sounds like a direct copy of Micro Machines. But make no mistake, the track settings is the only true comparison you can make to the Codemasters classic, and Table Top Racing deserves to have its own identity recognised, even if it won’t be quite as well remembered in 20 years’ time.
Some of you will recognise this, due to the fact it started life as a mobile game. The transition from mobile to console platforms isn’t always a smooth one, but the developers have worked had to make this a game for consoles, not just a lazy port. For those not in the know, you take control of one of the various tiny vehicles (which include an ice cream truck, a Jeep and a muscle car among others) and race them round table top tracks, picking up weapons as you go to slow down the other competitors. The weapons are entirely standard fare – missiles, bombs, speed boosts and a local area EMP shock – but allow for an additional tactical swing to races, with bombs and EMPs offering a defensive as well as offensive weapon options.
As you complete increasingly challenging events you’ll earn XP and coins, the latter of which you can spend on new upgrades, paint jobs and wheels for the cars you own. The wheels are an interesting touch – upgrades are expensive but give you a range of special abilities which grant you additional shields, boosts and so on. A very mobile-standard coin buying option is there if you want a shortcut round the inevitable grinding option, but it’s tucked away and doesn’t leap at you every few minutes telling you to get your credit card out for a new paint job. The whole in-app purchasing idea is not something I’m at all keen on, but in this case it’s very ignorable so I can live with that.
Visually this isn’t going to win any awards or stay in your memory as a standout game, but it has a certain level of charm when you’re ducking round cupcakes or swerving between tins of paint while trying to grab that first position. The handling of the cars isn’t too bad either once you get to grips with it and realise that a smooth line tends to be quicker than sliding round corners (although the drift challenges obviously force you to take a different spin on things). Everything feels quite slow to begin with and it might take some willpower to not give up at that point, but once the better cars start to unlock the pace does increase somewhat. It still never reaches a rollercoaster of crazy fun, but it’s nippy enough to be fairly entertaining.
There’s plenty of different events to try too, with standard weapon races being joined by timed laps, Chase HQ-style one-on-ones where you need to catch and ram another vehicle and weapon-free races. And yet despite all that Table Top Racers never really feels amazing. Maybe it’s the lack of all-out speed that made Micro Machines so hair-raising when you picked up the tiny F1 car, maybe it’s the whiny noises which would’ve been far less intrusive to the ears if there was a bit of background music during races. Whether it’s either of those things or one of the other little annoyances that sneak into play every now and then is hard to tell; none of them entirely ruin the game or make it a chore to play, but it’s not something you’re likely to still be playing in 6 months’ time.
In terms of racing tiny cars around on the Vita it’s still not a bad game despite the niggles, but I’d certainly rank it below Motorstorm RC in terms of racing thrills and challenge, even if this has got the option to fire homing missiles at other competitors. That said, it’s a relatively inexpensive option if you’re yearning for a bit of fun racing on your Vita, and while it won’t entertain for a huge amount of time there’s enough quality and content to keep you busy for long enough to get your money’s worth. A slightly missed opportunity perhaps, but still worthy of consideration.
Reviewed on PS Vita