Review - Table Top Racing
The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long -- and you burn so very, very brightly, mobile game trends. Whenever a new, creative gameplay concept appears on the scene, it is promptly duplicated dozens upon dozens of times, quickly growing old and being left to die. The once fresh becomes trite, regardless of its actual original quality. Because of this, often the safest bet when designing your mobile game is to simply make it fit an established console genre. But is it possible to make your own unique version of the genre while also implementing mobile gaming conventions? Table Top Racing says yes, and for the most part, I applaud them for it.
Table Top Racing has the quirky premise of taking place on a miniature scale, as the name would imply. You control a tiny, Hot Wheels-esque car as you drive through various odd locations, such as a picnic table, the toy-riddled floor of a preschool, and a sushi restaurant counter. This is where the charm is, for the most part. All these environments look great, featuring nicely detailed textures, vibrant colors, and good lighting effects. The developers especially did an excellent job of delivering the sense of scale they were going for. There really isn’t anything quite like driving by a cereal box the size of a building. There are also zero frame rate issues or graphical pop-in, so you’ll stay immersed in these peculiar locations through your entire race.
What’s bizarre about the lacking audio in Table Top Racing, is that it fits the game. In pretty much any other racer, I would complain about how the engine sounds weak and the tires sound tiny, but it actually makes sense. Your car’s engine is roughly one centimeter across, so hearing the rev of a Bugatti SS would actually be pretty off-putting. I must ask, though, if the developers had to make the soundtrack consist of the most insipid light rock imaginable. I guess if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but I’m sure near a breaking point with all these uninspired mobile game soundtracks.
Table Top Racing is a very standard racer when you get down to it. You have a nice selection of control options from gyroscope to on-screen buttons, the tracks are all average in their variety of length, and you pick up an assortment of weapons around the track to help you out in your quest for first place. You’ve certainly seen a racer that plays identical to this one, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It works, and it’s just as fun to play as those other titles, even though you won’t exactly be impressed with anything. Table Top Racing does add some more unique game modes, each of which alters the rules/objective of the race slightly or dramatically. Instead of the championships being plain races, every event is a different mode, which makes up for the somewhat lacking number of tracks.
The biggest overall problem I have with Table Top Racing is that it’s missing any sort of oomph, for lack of a more technical term. Part of this is due to the fact that all of the weapons, except the shock wave, don’t have satisfying animations. When I hit my opponent with a missile, I expect more than just a wimpy fire ring to come from around him. There is supposed to be an earth-shattering KA-BOOM! Mostly, though, Table Top Racing lacks a real sense of speed -- one of the core elements of the racing genre. Gameplay is still fun, and pretty intense when it gets down to the wire, but the excitement that comes with extreme velocity is sorely missed. Unfortunately this is impossible to fix through updates, so instead I suggest that the developer looks into this aspect especially when developing a potential sequel.
You’ve got a garage full of cars to unlock and upgrade, championships to win, challenges to beat, achievements to earn, and leaderboards to top in Table Top Racing. In addition, there is a three-star system which evaluates every race you do based on your finishing position. While it’s true that not every mobile game needs this system and that I initially wrote it off as tacked-on, it does a good job indicating where you didn’t fully succeed if you’re a perfectionist. Once you’ve mastered your racing skills you can also head online in the multiplayer mode, taking on up to three other people. The $3 price tag may scare off some people, but there’s certainly a decent amount of content for the value.
Table Top Racing is a charming and enjoyable, albeit unambitious, racer that is well polished and definitely worth a look. The gameplay may have kept me playing, but it was the amusing premise that got me initially interested. It goes without saying that a little personality will go a long way in a video game market such as this -- one so desperately in need of it.
Sean Capdeville is the official mobile game reviewer of ScrewAttack.com. An aspiring filmmaker, his favorite games include Skyrim, Link's Awakening DX, and NOVA 3. In his spare time, he likes to reference Casablanca.