GripShift ReviewCain Dornan
While the Playstation Portable certainly has its fair share of racing games, there are few that differ from the traditional formula. That is, to begin at a starting line and compete against competitors until you finally reach the finish line. There is often little variation in-between, resulting in many racing titles feeling remarkably similar to others.
Attempting to change this long-standing tradition within the racing genre, developer Sidhe Interactive has come up with their solution to the monotonous gameplay with GripShift; a racing game at heart that is influenced by platforming, puzzle solving and action elements. Its certainly a weird combination of genres, each varying quite substantially from each other. This may be the reason why GripShift fails to be anywhere near enjoyable, or it may simply be due to the developers inability to correctly fuse each genre together.
Upon booting up the game, you are offered the chance to select your desired character from the small offering available. Theres Sasse, a busty college girl, a curly-haired teen named Dante, Stacey the biker chick and Bud, your typical radical surfboarder. Once you have selected your character, you can choose from various different vehicles on offer, each offering their own attributes that will effect how you play the game. If you discover that you do not like the combination that you have selected, you are free to select a new driver or vehicle at any time without losing any save data that you have achieved with your old character.
GripShifts single player offering initially begins with only the Challenge mode available, with additional modes becoming available as you earn points by completing the various events on offer. The Challenge mode offers a mixed assortment of game types, which vary as you proceed through the mode. The first lot of events on offer, which come under the Beginner banner, are essentially tutorial stages that teach you the basics of the game. Upon completing this mode, you enable the Easy section of the Challenge mode, which offers a much larger list of different events that increase in difficulty. Completing the Easy mode then unlocks access to further difficulties, each appropriately offering more difficult challenges. The Challenge mode largely consists of platforming and puzzle aspects, requiring you to find your way through a maze of tracks by speeding across floating platforms to the finish line within the specified time limit.
There is also a Race Mode, which is a slightly more traditional mode that offers a gameplay style that is somewhat inspired from the Mario Kart series. In addition to offering stages that are simpler in design by not throwing various routes at you at any one time, the racing events also involve shooting your competitors using weapons that are gained by driving through question marks that are placed around the track. Unfortunately, there are very few weapons available, resulting in the racing experience quickly becoming dull. GripShift also offers multiplayer support, which heavily focuses on the racing aspects of the game.
GripShift also offers a Games mode, which includes a number of small mini games that offer a refreshing alternative when the games main modes are losing your interest, which will happen often. The Games mode includes various take-offs of actual games, such as Penguin Bowling that involves throwing your speeding vehicle down a lane that is scattered with obstacles to eventually try and knock over all the penguins. There is also Bomb Pool, which offers a game of pool with some interesting little additions, such as a TNT box that regularly appears in the center of the table and deals destruction whenever touched. While the Games mode was initially planned as being a simple complimentary offering to the games actual events, the mini games offered in the Games mode often prove to be more interesting and better made than the actual events themselves.
Possibly the only solid and well-designed mode is the Track Editor, which allows you to make your own custom track from a large assortment of objects on offer. The editor is surprisingly simple and easy to use, allowing you to scroll through the objects list be simply holding down the left shoulder button and then cycling through with the directional pad. Once you have selected an item, tapping the X button places the item on the design grid.
But what makes GripShifts gameplay so unbearable? For starters, the controls are not quite as tight and accurate as they should be, resulting in your vehicle regularly falling off the edges of floating islands as the game fails to react to your button commands quick enough. Unless you happen to have amazingly good patience, youll soon be throwing the game aside due to pure frustration as your vehicle goes falling into the endless blue for the fiftieth time. Furthermore, the little differentiation between each stage quickly gives the game a repetitive feeling, with each new stage or challenge offering nothing new. This makes the control issues even more apparent, with the likelihood of you playing through all of the surprisingly large number of different events highly unlikely.
Although GripShift is not a visual splendor or a complete disaster, the wacky character and track designs provide an appropriate cartoony look and feel, although, the game fails to input its own unique appeal. Youll feel was though youve seen the same visual style in countless other mediocre titles, with the basic level and character designs failing to impress. Likewise with the games audio, which consists of limited and simple voice overs that are further dragged-down with the basic and uninteresting sound effects. The inclusion of repetitive hip-hop tracks from no-name artists is a further insult to the games presentation, as youll likely be turning the games sound off within fifteen minutes of playing the game as youll tire of hearing the same track countless times in a row.
While the unique combination of multiple genres had the potential to create a solid and refreshing title, the poor implementation results in the game being nothing more than an overly repetitive bore that fails to offer any interesting gameplay elements.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.