Gripshift Reader Review
Up until now I had totally dismissed this game, probably due to the combination of it being a budget game and the fact that I knew of no one who had played it or was considering getting it. Luckily seeing it for just £10 was a bargain too hard to resist and now, in hindsight, I would happily pay full price for it. I have also now discovered that it has received quite a few well deserved awards (e.g. "Best Level Design", "Best Game Design" and "Best Handheld Game" at the 2005 Australian Game Developers Awards).
The handling of the cars is very reminiscent of a favourite game of mine, Hardware:Online Arena, the way they turn, bounce off jumps, land, topple etc. and within minutes I got to grips with it. They also have a familiar floating sensation when flying through the air and when airbourne have stop, start and turn capabilities. When the turbo boost is added into the mix you can literally rocket around through the air, guiding yourself off one jump, over half the track to land safely on the finish straight. This is great fun and provides scope for all sorts of inventive routes and shortcuts
The main chunk of the game is over 100 levels of Challenge mode where you are faced with 3 goals on each of the progressively wacky floating tracks. The first goal is to pass through any required checkpoints and reach the finish line in under a certain time to receive a Gold/Silver/Bronze medal. These timings are addictively perfect, on many a every level I have missed a Gold by mere hundredths of a second, which obviously demands a replay to try and claw my way faster. Not since the days of gap collecting on Tony Hawks 2 have I developed such a lightning quick ĎRestart Levelí reaction - startdownxxgo. However the retries do not get boring, the desired achievement is always in sight and with the help of the handy ghost car you can see yourself edging towards it.
The other goals have a different pace. The second is collecting all the stars which are littered obviously along the middle of the track and requires you to adopt a much safer style of driving whilst still maintaining enough speed so as not to time out. The stars can be quite easy to skid past but you will be pressed for time if you turn around or reverse to pick one up. The third goal is to collect the GripShift icon which will be located on one of the floating islands high-up, low-down or far-away off the beaten track. To get to it will require some imaginative route, often making use of a hidden ramp or jump-pad to get enough height to rocket towards it before rushing back to the finish-line. "Jump-pad?" you say. Indeed, as you progress through the difficulties not only do the tracks get more complex (junctions, banked corners, loops etc.) but more unusual features, called traps in the game, are added in: Moving platforms, jump-pads, fans, magnets, teleports, elephants, etc.
Occasionally you will come to a head to head race against one opponent, where you have to beat them around 2 laps of a track. This part is definately the games weak point, it is slightly spiced up by the addition of weapon pickups but because there is only 3 variations (missile, bomb, sheild) they quickly lose their excitement. The AI driver is rather annoying too, sticking to the racing line like glue (glue which moves along) and always taking you out at crucial moments. However outside of the Challenge mode there is a stand alone Race mode, with time trials and tournaments, which has 3 opponents per race and is much more tolerable. They do fight amongst themselves so you donít feel so much like the butt of their AI perfection and it provides a nice alternative from the puzzling of Challenge mode. As do the amusing bonus mini-games such as Pool, Football, Penguin Bowling and Snake.
The game has a 4 player ad-hoc multiplayer option, both racing and mini-games, but I havenít managed to try it out yet. Also there is a highly comprehensive track editor, with the ability to place a good few hundred pieces and none of the wacky traps missing, you can create tracks equally elaborate as those of the developers. Enhancing this is the ability to share tracks via wifi and even download premade ones.
The game as a whole feels highly polished and professional, for instance you can remap the functions of the 6 main buttons to your own preference, something incredibly simple but rarely seen on consoles. Another example is the music, a mix of hip-hop and drumín'bass which, while not entirely my taste, is enjoyable enough and fits in well with the game. There is even 1 track penned and several others remixed specifically for the game. The songs play seamlessly throughout multiple replays, so you donít get tired of the same intro and the nicest touch is the way they speed up during the last ten seconds, increasing the tension as you dash for the line.
As you may realise I am a big fan of this game and highly recommend it and if you factor in the price then I would say this is one of the best PSP games I have played.
9 / 10