Have you ever known someone who loves to have fun and dye their hair, but they lack the commitment or resources to do it well? They may briefly create a façade of being someone else but given a little time it all begins to slowly come apart? That’s probably the most polite thought I have about Table Top Racing Premium Edition, as you’ll find it in the Tegra Zone. While they may claim your investment has bought you an enhanced 1080p experience you can play on your TV plus awesome analog control with your Shield Controller I’m here to tell you that resolution and analog control aren’t going to make a barely gussied up cel phone game look or play any better.
Editor’s Note: We used only videos in this review as to better illustrate what is being said. Static images don’t show everything as good as the videos do.
When going through the list of problems I have with this title it is hard to know where to start, but let’s get right to the meat of things: The game lacks nuance, excitement, or even fun. I’ll gladly put it out there that I’ve clocked a ton of hours on just about every Mario Kart game (and many inferior clones) and even the SNES original blows this away. Whether the control is analog or digital nothing gets around the lack of pretty well anything rewarding skill. There’s no drifting/power sliding, there’s no drafting, all you have is putting your foot to the floor (a result of it being a cel phone game, I know, but this is being sold as a viable game for the Shield so it is being reviewed accordingly) and poking around turns. I won’t be a complete snob and expect realistic deformations and crash physics but running into another car is also handled very primitively, further demonstrating the overall lack of quality to be had in the title.
Do you know another way you can tell how poor a game that includes “combat racing” is? When you spend a whole lot of time yawning your way through lifeless, empty tracks in forced time trials. Possibly the most direct sign of the game’s pay-or-grind essence, that is still very much in effect (paid/premium or not), is the utter lack of any choice in things. Do you prefer top speed over handling? Are you a bump and runner who likes a little more emphasis on acceleration and toughness? Are you a control freak who always goes for handling and driving a perfect race? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions you’ll be sorely disappointed, you should have instead thought, “Oh no, that sounds too complicated for my simple brain, I prefer to have a dictated upgrade path that may not even suit my style of play.”
When you finish a race that you just barely missed first place on, look at your coin balance, and realize you can buy an upgrade you could have a moment of excitement. “With a little more acceleration coming out of those bends and turns I could totally have beaten that time.” Sorry, even though you worked through 4 grindy races to piece together the coins (you cheapskate, for only a few dollars more you could totally move on right now… until you hit this very same scenario again in a few races, and then again, and again) for an upgrade we know what you really want is more boost… which is so useful on a track composed of mostly turns compared to acceleration, or handling, or something remotely sensible.
Oh, but there are multiple modes! Nifty kittens! There’s race multiple laps by yourself with boosts to run over mode! There’s race a single lap quickly with no boosts mode! There’s quickly run into another car mode! There’s race against other cars and kind of bump into each other without power-ups mode! I won’t spoil the surprise of the rest, but rest assured that none of them manages to elevate the game above mediocre fare, even by quick distraction on your phone standards, let alone on a platform designed to deliver a worthy gaming experience.
From top to bottom I can’t see this title as anything but a cheap cash grab, putting itself out there for people looking for some fun on their new rig and who don’t yet know they’re being ripped off. If you want to play a tedious racer go get the free version, it won’t have analog controller support (do you think a game developed completely for simplified digital controls is capable of truly using them?) and
everything on the screen won’t look like it has been polished in wax so the light will reflect on them more. Below it all is the same
essential game experience for you to decide is worthy or not, and if you like it you can choose to purchase from that point. As for me I’d recommend avoiding it at all costs.
Scoring: (out of 5)
Graphics: 2.5 – Below it all the game is still built on models and assets for lesser devices (mainly phones) so throwing some extra pizazz and visual effects into the mix isn’t going to make this title impressive on the Shield. Everything in the game is relatively sterile, from the vehicles to the tracks, and it makes the drab gameplay all the more painful.
Sound: 3 – Nothing terrible, nothing too exciting. I think you can tell from the review that it really didn’t bear mention in any particular direction. There are sounds and music, they neither enhance nor detract from the gameplay experience in any notable way.
Gameplay: 2 – In terms of what the game aspires to be, an exciting kart racer with engaging gameplay, it really falls flat. Far too much time is spent grinding through timed stages and being forced through the cattle chutes to go from race to race, not necessarily expecting to win the first time, in order to accumulate enough coins to buy your next upgrade that you often absolutely need in order to advance. This is the annoying core structure of the grind-or-pay model, and it would be one thing if the game were free but I’m reviewing a version people have paid for. I’ve paid my money, give me a compelling game experience. Don’t make me play through a few hours of garbage busy work to make me get to anything remotely good along with the people who paid nothing. If the core game, once it got “good”, were truly worthwhile I could likely play it for hours… much like Mario Kart or other very successful casual racing games.
Instead, since the game isn’t designed to entertain, but to instead make as much money as possible while delivering as little true gameplay as possible the “good” part of the game, if it even truly exists, is held out as the carrot to keep you playing. Much like with a bad gambler the more time (or please don’t tell me people buy the game currency) you commit to the game the more you believe that with just one more race or upgrade it’s finally going to be tolerable. You just need to believe there’s something better out there and cut your losses. I know it’s hard, but life is too short to be spending it on shallow, unrewarding gameplay.
Control: 2.5 – I refuse to call what is offered full analog control. I’ll call it digital re-mastered (but still crappy). The thing is, in many ways it isn’t the physical controls that are the problem, it is the very limited amount you’re able to control that is the problem. Without much technique or nuance to speak of you’re simply tapping through your turns, trying not to skid and risk losing control or speed. There isn’t the satisfaction of braking into the turn and sliding out, or jumping into the turn and building up to a boost, or anything. Just press, press, press and hope you don’t skid. Now repeat hundreds of times. Sure, with analog you can (finally) brake, but remember, the game wasn’t originally designed with braking, or even letting off the gas, in mind. While they may have played with the formula a little bit to make it controller friendly the core mechanics of the game weren’t reinvented. So at best you’re left with bland, unsatisfying control… but now with more analog!
Lastability: 1.5 – If it weren’t for spending a few hours with the game to give it an honest shake I would have stopped playing in the first 15 minutes. I’ve been on this kind of road before, and it never ends well. I told myself to hold out, that the combat racing and power-ups would make it more interesting. Perhaps they do, just a little, but having played my fair share of combat racers over time I would say this is among the most uninspired and lazy. They are, in no way, game changers. They are certainly better than racing laps on your own or suffering through a weaponless race, requiring everyone to awkwardly bump into each other like empty cardboard boxes for a while.
Overall: 2 – If this were the free version of the game I might have been inclined to be a little easier on it, as you can’t necessarily expect something for nothing. For an investment of a few dollars, though, you’re being asked to purchase this game instead of potentially buying a couple of games with the way casual games often get priced. Worst of all is that what the developer has supposedly done to make your investment worthwhile falls criminally short of the mark. This is a poorly retooled freeware game that actually retained every shred of pay-or-grind the original had in terms of the tedious races you must endure to even get anything at all rolling. To then lock in the upgrade choices, denying the ability to play a racing game that at least suits the driving style the purchase may prefer? All of this to purposely try to further hold them back to endure more races to finally get the upgrade they wanted in the first place? Check it out for free, but I couldn’t even recommend that version. There has to be better out there on the platform than this. If not, we’re in some serious trouble.