Looks like you picked the wong party to cwash.
Proper racing games have never really been my genre at all. I used to enjoy a whizz around Brands Hatch on Chequered Flag on my Speccy and I dabbled, with varying levels of success, with all the Gran Turismo games (although GT4 made me weep tears of boredom) but mostly they just irritate me. Mainly because my severe lack of skills makes me question how I even passed my driving test.
Once you strip away the po-faced seriousness of the racing genre and exaggerate the action it becomes so much more interesting. Super Mario Kart, Mashed, Outrun 2, Eighteen Wheeler, Crazy Taxi. Now they are games I enjoyed. Ramp up the stupidity, throw out all the bollocks about racing lines and you know gears and things. If I have to use the brakes, I’m not happy.
The dumbed-down racing genre definitely lends itself to Xbox’s Live Arcade service. Small ‘pick up and play’ games, online capability and a budget price-point. You’d think the service would be inundated with them by now but so far all we’ve had is Mad Tracks which, whilst being a brilliant Micro Machines rip-off, no-one bought because the demo was gash. So there is definitely a gap and Gripshift fits it perfectly.
As with Trackmania, following the track probably won’t help you beat them in time and you’ll eventually have to start thinking a little more laterally. Taking dives from the sides of tracks, cutting corners and even driving backwards end up being the order of the day. However, unlike Trackmania, you are limited to pre-designed tracks as there is no track editor available which is a bit of a blow as that was the best aspect of both Trackmania and Gripshift on the PSP. As ever us next-gen owners are still getting our games in a cut-down form.
Challenge mode is quite brilliant. The tracks are varied, outlandish and brilliantly designed which keeps you interested throughout and with so many ways to fall (fall off track, get crushed, get pushed, misjudge giant leaps) you always have to stay sharp and drive skillfully as well as intelligently. The usual assortment of loops, jumps, boosts and hidden areas mean that every track offers a different challenge.
With absolutely no concessions made to realism whatsoever Gripshift features some of the most ridiculous handling ever seen in a game. Whilst the controls initially feel a little wooly you’ll soon find yourself whizzing through the tracks… and over them. Turning, accelerating and braking can also be done in mid-air. Ridiculous but essential for making some of those time limits. This isn’t a bad thing at all though.
Graphically this game has the sharp look of Marble Blast or Switchball but, as mentioned earlier, also a plays a little like them. Tricky, suspended courses with hazards, timelimits and pickups. But where as both those games were designed by fiendish evil geniuses intent on breaking your spirit Gripshift is a bit more enjoyable.
Gripshift sounds like a dodgy porn movie. Go on admit it, it does doesn’t it? Well despite the name what we have here is a fairly solid arcade style racing game. It has a variety of different modes, all of which are fun to play and will keep you playing the game for some time.
There is one problem with this game that stops it from being a nine out of ten game. Were the hell did the level editor go? This would of sealed the deal for most people and I was very disappointed to find it did not make the cut to 360 version as it would of increased the playtime length to the end of time.
Saying that it’s still a damn good game just missing it’s main feature which helped it sell on the PSP and I think is probably due to money. Hell if the customer can create there own tracks then they are not going to buy them from the market place and I think that’s rather sad. Still if you are up for some wacky driving action then you can’t go far wrong with Gripshift really.
Secondary Score: 6/10
Beating the various challenges also unlocks new vehicles, decals, skins and music which doesn’t really alter the experience much but is at least a nice touch and is a little bit more motivation for plough through the one hundred and twenty levels. Although it does send up the red flag with ‘expect shitty downloadable content’ written all over it. Seeing as how you’ll barely have a chance to look at your vehicle things like decals aren’t really that important but then again they sold a ‘jungle table’ for Texas Hold ‘Em and people bought that. There’s nowt as queer as folk…
Away from the brain training of the Challenge mode there is also a racing mode which eschews all the star-collecting for straight up races. This is your standard Mario Kart affair with an equally annoying line in power-ups which seem to have been designed exclusively for the AI to piss you off with. Seriously, every time you overtake a vehicle you expect a missile up your exhaust and most of the time you’ll get one.
Still, with judicious use of shields and your own firepower you’ll soon find yourself winning races and punishing the AI and whilst it wouldn’t make a great game in its own right, the racing mode is certainly a nice addition to the game especially with the tracks on offer.
Gripshift won’t be to everyone’s tastes and certainly doesn’t cater at all for the Project Gotham fans (they can stick with Yaris) but it’s a great addition to XBLA and is a fine example of the genre. If a level editor had been included this could have been essential but as it stands it’s still very good indeed.