Monday, May 2, 2016

Table Top Racing

Rating: 7.0
Happy Price: 7.99


TTR is an arcade racer that deals with micro cars in all to familiar settings, but with a completely different aspect. What would it be like to race in a sushi bar, bedroom, or garage? Most of the time racing games deal with totally fake places, or super realistic environments, but TTR blends both. It creates a nostalgic experience, but once that fades you're left with the gameplay which can be underwhelming. 

Track Design

The track design is fantastic. The tracks are short which bode well with the car size, in terms of scale they match up nicely. Lap times range between 60-90 seconds and have tons of content in them. Around every corner is an interactive obstacle, powerup, jump, or hairpin turn. When turning, the camera also does this angle shift which adds an element of momentum shift even though you're not in the car. Around the track are hidden coins which yield huge amounts of upgrading currency. Getting these coins require a sharp eye and problem solving since it's not always obvious how to reach them. It mixes a puzzle game into a racing game, but it's not relevant enough of an action to call this a racing puzzle game. The placement of powerups and obstacles was done very well and it's obvious tons of testing was conducted, and a lot of effort was put into the placement of these items. The ideas for the tracks are great as well, as they add familiarity and fantasy to the racing experience. I think everyone has imagined what it would be like to have a real life racetrack in their bedroom.


The balance of skill and AI is handled well. As you progress from the beginner levels to the advanced, good racing will yield good results and dumb mistakes will cost you in the long run. Nothing is handed to the player, and even though the AI is tough there is a human element to them as well. For example when they jump off a ramp they are vulnerable upon the landing to lose control and fall off the track. Timing these events can give you an advantage when trying to overtake a first place vehicle that clearly has better stats than your car. The AI tends to know when this is going to happen however, and is very quick to press the "reset" button which puts them on the track after about a 1.5 second cooldown. 

It helps that there are many game modes, however the most fun is the core race mode where you do laps and have powerups, and the person that gets 1st place wins the race. There are other modes such as pursuit, cutthroat, time trial, clean races, and drift modes. However being forced to do these during championships can be taxing since I don't really want to race cleanly or do time trials in this setting with these car types. Powerups range from missiles to an acid trail, so they emulate similar functions as Mario Kart but a little more realistic.


As you accumulate coins, you can upgrade your current vehicle or save up for the next class of car. Most of your coins come from winning races, but very small amounts can be earned via using missiles or acid successfully. I found doing these doesn't really matter however, since a race might yield 2,500 coins but finding a gold coin on the track can yield 10,000 coins. Sometimes I would spend the entire race just finding coins without the intention of winning, which takes the challenge out of getting the coin and maintaining position in the race. This effectively breaks the game in my opinion. Once a huge amount of coins are accumulated, you can upgrade your car to the max, win your current championship, and then move on to the next one and repeat the process. There are many things to upgrade however. Things like acceleration, top speed, and handling are relatively cheap things to upgrade. However new tires can cost 20,000-60,000 which is about the cost of a car in the game. They provide passive abilities and probably are only required in the advanced stages.

Where did it fall short?

One thing that bothered me is the game does not support local multiplayer, but it looks like it's designed for a local multiplayer audience. I would never play this game online when I have options like Forza on the table for racing. My girlfriend wanted to play me in this game, but we could not enjoy it together. Another thing was there wasn't a narrative to drive gameplay and keep the player engaged. The game gets a bit repetitive and there isn't a huge car selection, or customization of the vehicles that are owned. This creates a small personal investment and things start to feel flat once all the levels are played. I don't have a real reason to advance or even try to beat the game. The soundtrack is ok at first, but the as the songs repeat they get annoying. The music does not shift to the background, it feels a bit intrusive at times because it demands presence when it probably shouldn't.


I can see why this game did so well on mobile devices, but it wasn't ready for the console market. You can get away with good raw gameplay on a phone, but a console demands story, multiplayer, and more options for car selection. Track design and the overall concept were good, and I really enjoyed the camera movement when turning. It gave the sense of G's being pulled on the body during tight turns. The unforgiving AI creates a nice challenge as well, and is balanced by the player's ability to turn things around. Racing feels organic which is great, there just isn't much purpose behind the racing.      

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