Little Cars, Big Smiles
Racers, start your engines! Well, charge up your PlayStation Vitas first, as I’ve no doubt many of you haven’t had a reason to put it on for a while unless you’re a fan of niche Japanese titles. But that’s about to change and for a no-excuses price of £4.99 too.
Table Top Racing is an arcade racing title with healthy influences from the likes of Micro Machines and the weapon-sporting Mashed (but not Wrecked, thankfully). You race miniature toy cars across a range of tracks that include sushi restaurants, picnic areas and tables full of junk. Every course is fantastically designed with lots of tight turns and sudden shear edges that keep the racing pack together throughout.
Slight rubber-banding keeps the races tight too, but when some laps are as short as twenty seconds it never feels unfair. The AI is sharp too, especially in the later tournaments. Unlike many racers with weapons though, the AI don’t just focus on you, instead they’ll ruthlessly fight amongst themselves, often providing you with a chance to slip by an angry huddle, although you’ll often risk a rocket up the backside for such slyness.
While not every event features weapons, the ones that do are keen to provide them many times during each lap. Homing rockets, rear mines, turbos and a devastating circular EMP blast may not sound like much, but each is so well balanced that you rarely feel dissatisfied with any provided by the random drops.
New cars and upgrades to stats like boost, grip and armour can be purchased with coins earned from events or via paid micro-transactions. Don’t worry, you’ll never feel the need to spend any real money as the in-game currency flows naturally enough. To give your coffers a better boost, why not pick up the gold wheel rims that give you extra coins when you drift instead?
There are multiple camera angles on offer; a classic Mashed/Micro Machines overhead one and two standard ones based behind you. As much as I wanted to play the game with the top-down camera to nail that feel of Mashed, I had to admit things were much clearer with the regular viewpoint as some corners and item drops can be a little difficult to spot from overhead. Overall, though, it’s a great touch from the developers to let us choose what works best for us. If we could just get a patch to turn off the rear trackpad activating the rear-view camera though, that’d be swell.
The game’s surprisingly lengthy campaign is made of the usual suspects of races, time trials, burning laps and elimination modes. Each event has three stars to earn for podium places or time barriers, ensuring you’ll be back to ace each one. Sometimes you’ll hit a sudden difficulty spike, but by them you’ll have acquired enough coins to buy a new car or upgrade your existing one. Try to save up for the blue Tokyo, its drift-style handling is superb fun.
I’d love to tell you how awesome the multiplayer is too, but I’ve not been able to find anyone online to race against. Local multiplayer is also available if you can meet up with any Vita owners with the game. In reality, the Vita’s install base isn’t great and barren servers may be the future of this game. I’d love to see Table Top Racing make its way to the full-sized consoles though as I think it could be an essential title if we can get some online or 4-player split-screen action going. That said, I’d still heartily recommend giving this a shot for the excellent fun of the single-player game.
- Great track design
- Finely balanced weapons
- AI opponents are a rowdy bunch
- Not now rear-view camera!
- Online servers are dead
- You don’t own it. Yet.
The Short Version: A fantastic racer that’s sped onto the Vita out of nowhere. So fast in fact that nobody has noticed it yet and the online multiplayer servers are all too quiet. There’s still a lot of fun in the extensive single-player modes though thanks to some delightful track design and the fun handling offered by the numerous vehicles available. You’ll not spend a better £4.99 this year.