Format – PS Vita
It’s eight years since the last Micro Machines game, V4, came out. I knew it had been a while, but that came as something of a surprise when I looked it up. Perhaps four games was enough at the time, but now several years down the line, that brilliant idea of tiny vehicles around a track based on tables in different places (encompassing work benches, grills, and childrens play tables amongst others), feels both reasonably fresh, and simultaneously for someone like me who remembers Micro Machines fondly, very nostalgic.
In Table Top Racing, we have something of a spiritual successor to Micro Machines then, but all done with a few twists. Some races are just that, some have Mario Kart style weaponry, and others borrow race ideas from elsewhere such as the eliminator that Burnout did so well. Originally a mobile release on iOS and Android, the move to Vita has been handled well and doesn’t feel at all like a mobile game shoe-horned into a handheld console. However, the early levels are extremely easy, too easy, if anything, as I blasted through the first cup in about 10-15 minutes. The second didn’t take a huge amount of time either. Given this would have required touch controls initially, it is understandable, but at the same time, perhaps the better control scheme should have resulted in a slight difficulty tweak.
It does get harder, though, and while Table Top Racing can be frustrating at times, it’s never to the point of making you want to walk away. It does a good job of reeling you back in for one more try. Adding to this is a star-based structure that rewards you with an increasing number of stars from 1-3 depending on how well you do in any given event. Getting one star is enough to progress, but there’s an additional challenge if you want to try for three stars.
Aside from feeding on that desire to get all those stars, Table Top Racing, in general, is a very generous package. There are four tournaments to play through, with an increasing number of races as you progress, but you also get a series of drift challenges, and a separate challenge mode to that as well. The latter provides individual race challenges in for increasing difficulty levels, but I was slightly disappointed that these are just basically taken from the tournament mode. There should have been more and a better focus on differentiating between them.
As you complete any event, depending on how well you do, you don’t just get stars, you also get coins to spend on buying more cars, or upgrading the ones you already own. At this point, I need to mention the miniature elephant in the room, the dreaded micro transaction… You can buy coins to more quickly unlock the vehicles and upgrades. However, while this will make progress easier, it’s not an automatic route to success, and it’s never forced down your throat. There’s just an icon in the garage area of the game that provides this option. I’m not a fan of microtransactions at all, but here they are just an option, there’s certainly no need for you to make use of them to complete Table Top Racing and that’s the most important thing.
Graphically, Table Top Racing plays it straight, where Micro Machines tended towards the cartoony. The graphics are passable but a wee bit disappointing, with some textures being a little fuzzy, and the car designs being quite basic. The viewing angle, behind the car rather than top down as Micro Machines was, works ok, but perhaps top down would have been better given the obstacles that need negotiating.
With this style of racer, it pays to be able to see a little further ahead but it doesn’t take too long to learn the quirks of each course, so this is only a minor criticism. The audio never really surpasses ok either, with the opening theme owing more than a minor debt to the Top Gear theme track.
The Good Stuff
- Harks back to the brilliant Micro Machines
- Generous title with loads of action
- Mostly stays just the right side of frustrating when it gets tougher
The Bad Stuff
- Graphics and audio are a little uninspiring
- Behind car view isn’t always so helpful
- Starts off far too easy
Overall, while Table Top Racing is a good racer, it doesn’t do quite enough to be considered any more than that. It’s diverting for a few hours, but while at times I did feel compelled to try and get those three stars on a level, the wider draw just isn’t quite there. If I compare this to the only similar Vita game I can think of, Motorstorm RC, it’s noticeably lacking. Motorstorm had me completely hooked to the point that I bought all the DLC and got every trophy, but I don’t feel that same need here. If you’ve not played Motorstorm I would recommend that over this. However, if you already did and you’re still hankering for a new game of this ilk, Table Top Racing is definitely worth a go.
Technical Competency – 7/10
Graphic Quality – 6/10
Entertainment Value – 7/10
Sound Quality – 6/10
Network Stability – N/A.