Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Sidhe
Release Date: Out Now
GripShift, an introduction.
It's always great to see something different on a handheld console and that's exactly what we have here with GripShift. A quick look at the screenshots and you'd think that the game is a stunt car racer and indeed whilst this would certainly be an appealing game to have on your PSP, that isn’t exactly what we have here. In fact the game is much more than just a racer and apart from one rather significant problem, it's actually a very enjoyable game.
What's the game about?
So what's the game all about then? Well the best description you can probably give is that it's a driving puzzle game. The basic idea is to get from the start line to the finish line as quickly as possible and whilst this is initially a very simple task, it soon becomes very challenging and you'll really have to think of the best route to take. Getting from the start to the finish line isn't all you have to do though. There are stars to collect, nitrous icons and occasionally even weapons too. The numerous challenges in the game are sorted into difficulty levels and you'll need to obtain a certain amount of credits to progress from one difficulty level to another. To earn credits you'll have to collect items such as the stars etc. Simply crossing the finish line before your time runs out on each level isn't sufficient if you want to progress to the next level of challenges. You'll begin be creating a profile and picking one of the six characters to race as (two are initially locked). Next you'll get to customise your buggy before being taken to the main menu. The game offers single-player modes (Challenge mode, Race Mode and Bonus Games), ad-hoc multiplayer modes (Race Mode and Bonus Games) and also a track editor.
What's good about the game?
Despite a few problems, the game is actually very addictive and just the thing for those train and bus rides. The Challenge mode contains many levels that are split into beginner, easy, intermediate, hard and insane difficulty levels. The learning curve is a smooth one as your first level begins with you simply driving in a straight line but after only a handful of levels or so you're having to deal with loops, huge jumps and sliding platforms as well as combat races (and much more besides). Some levels offer multiple routes and finish lines and before you know it you'll be spending quite a bit of time on the levels as you attempt several strategies before finally crossing the finishing line in the allowed time. Some challenges only give you a very small amount of time and you'll have to collect stopwatch icons in order to give you more time which adds to the challenge. Of course what really adds to the challenge is that the tracks are all suspended in the air (Super Monkey Ball style) so if you come off the track you'll fail.
What's not so good about the game?
Make no mistake about it, GripShift has the potential to be a great game but unfortunately the main weakness is the steering. In a game such as this the steering should have been as good as possible to enable you to fully enjoy the puzzles. Instead the steering feels twitchy and it's difficulty to control your vehicle when travelling at high speed. The vehicles basically feel like you're driving on ice and there's a real lack of traction which makes steering a lot more difficult than it should be. At times it's a real chore to simply stay on the track, never mind having to negotiate. When you add in the fact that you'll fail your challenge if you come off the track (and that there's nothing to stop you coming off the track as there are no boundaries) it makes the whole thing even worse. Of course you could argue it adds to the challenge but as you progress to the later levels and take part in races against the AI (which has no problem in keeping the car on the road) the game can become infuriating.
How does it look?
GripShift actually looks quite good, even if it's hardly pushing the graphical capabilities of the PSP. In fact the graphics are probably closer to the standard of a PlayStation game rather than a PlayStation 2 game. The vehicle and character models are perhaps a little too simplistic. Nevertheless the graphics are good enough and the frame rate is very smooth throughout. Load times aren't too long either which is always great to see on a PSP game bearing in mind that so many titles seem to have chronic load times which seems completely wrong on a handheld.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Deaf gamers will have no problems with GripShift. Whilst there is some unsubtitled speech in the game it's of no real importance. When you pick your character (who you'll race as) there's a small amount of speech. Likewise when a challenge begins you'll have a countdown and you'll receive verbal warnings when your time is about to run out. However, the countdown to begin a challenge is shown visually and you'll see a 'Hurry Up' warning in text when your time has almost expired (the timer is always visible anyway). Any instructions in the game are exclusively in text, so you'll have no problems there either.
GripShift is a good PSP game that could have been a whole lot better had the handling been improved. In terms of content, originality and suitability there's little to complain about and it's a game that definitely has potential. However whether you'll enjoy the game or not will really come down to whether you have the patience to put up with the awkward steering. If you do have the patience you'll find a lot to appreciate in GripShift and I have to admit after a few hours you do find yourself coping with the steering. If you don't want to fuss over the awkward handling though, it's a game that will prove irritating.
Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10
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A genuinely original puzzle game, GripShift is only marred by the awkward handling. In terms of content and value for money it's difficult to beat.