Many gamers of a certain age will remember top-down racing classic Micro Machines, an ingenious little speed demon that saw you racing bite-sized cars around tracks built on bedroom floors, DIY workshops and kitchen counters. It was a novel take on an idea which, at the time, sorely needed it.
It was a similar ethos of fun rather than finicky simulation that led Playrise Digital – a company assembled from a good few genre veterans – to create Table Top Racing, a game that seems to share many of Micro Machines’ original elements, at least on paper. In it you control a vehicle selected from a roster of apparently randomly-chosen automobiles and race around, well, table tops, dodging cartons of juice, tins of woodstain and giant kitchen utensils.
For a game originally developed on mobile decices, TTR handles fairly well. Starting you off with a Winnebago and an ice cream truck, Playrise soon give you Jeeps and muscle cars to go nuts with, ramping up the speed and manoeuvrability. To begin with it can be quite difficult to maximise drift, but before long you’ll be cornering like you were born behind the wheel.
There is a decent variety of gameplay modes, from the standard career mode through to the challenges, which see you tackling the various race types to earn stars and more money. These include elimination events, drift contests, battles and straight races, and are an ideal place to grind for cash.
A major addition to the Vita version is the battle race, in which you pick up Mario Kart-style weapons with which to slow down your opponents. They aren’t the most imaginative of tools – a homing rocket, an area-of-effect EMP, a speed boost and a mine – but they help mix up the action nicely. Table Top Racing isn’t the fastest paced racer around, so the added danger of weapons makes it a little more exciting. The pick-ups themselves are handy, but only really offer an advantage if used tactically as they don’t slow your target for very long.
In-app purchases are still a thing, sadly, but as TTR isn’t free on Vita Playrise have halved the cost of purchasable bundles and made it easier to grind for them. Although it will take a while to earn enough money to unlock all the cars and all the upgrades, it is possible, and the pay-to-win factor is greatly muted.
Obviously, Table Top Racing on the Vita is a graphical improvement over the mobile original, but it’s not particularly stunning. That said, the environments are well detailed and there’s a certain charm to be found in racing around the over-sized household landmarks.
Yet despite the amount of content and the addition of tactical pick-ups, there’s something not quite there about Table Top Racing. It might be the lack of music during races, or the way the game rights you instantly if you crash or get momentarily stuck on a wall – it might even be that we’ve kind of seen it all before from a different angle in Micro Machines – but something is missing from TTR that can leave you feeling hollow after prolonged periods. It’s alleviated somewhat by the ad-hoc multiplayer, which enables a little local co-op with friends or strangers.
VERDICT: Table Top Racing is a charming little racer with a good selection of modes and race types. Sadly the better vehicles and upgrades will require either a monetary contribution or some serious grinding to unlock, but as it stands you have a solid, full game without having to pay an extra penny. Not the most thrilling racing sim available on the Vita, but certainly the best for its price.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.