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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Sony PSP games
Read our review of the PSP here!

GripShift

Reviewed posted October 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment and Red Mile Entertainment
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Release Date: September, 2005
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Genre: Action / Driving
Price: $39.99

Trying to describe GripShift for the PSP in one tiny paragraph is like trying to park the space shuttle in a two-car garage. The best way to accurately portray the type of gameplay found in GripShift is to say that it's a racing game that relies heavily on the short, obstacle-filled tracks and unorthodox platforming elements to drive its puzzle-laden gameplay along. While best compared to Sega's Super Monkey Ball series of console games, the game presents you with track after track filled with obstacle and puzzle elements that require you figure out how to successfully navigate each track, while at the same time, accomplishing each of the track's three goals. To make matters even more challenging, you have a set time limit with which to do all of this. It may sound a little far-fetched, but there's just something about this odd gameplay combination that somehow injects a good amount of fun into the experience. Of course that's if you can handle the game's somewhat high degree of difficulty.

Gameplay

The single player mode is where you'll spend most of your time. In this mode you can choose to play the game's many challenge tracks or take on the computer-controlled opponent in typical racing fashion. You can also play a variety of bonus games as they're opened up with credits earned on the challenge tracks, although most of the bonus games are not much more than a nice diversion from the challenge mode. Two player mode offers the opportunity to link up with another player wirelessly in a one-on-one racing match complete with nitrous boost and special weapons or allow a fellow opponent have a hand at trying to complete some of your custom tracks you can create using the game's track editor.

Obviously the single player challenge mode is really the meat and potatoes of the game. Each track in this mode presents you with a challenge. Using your race car, along with other useful items like the nitrous boost and hand brake, you must drive, jump, and even fly high in the air, in order to find your way through each of the track's checkpoints and finish line. While your race car does handle fairly typically when you're on the ground, once you jump and become airborne, the game seems to take on a flying simulation feel to it. You can not only fully control your car in the air, but you can even use your acceleration and braking abilities as well. This is where the main challenge of the game comes into play. Not only do you have to be concerned with keeping your car on the track, but you must also find ways to reach platforms, carefully maneuver moving portions of the track, and use warp circles to reach the end of each track within the set time limit. Although this doesn't award you any credits in itself, it does allow you to move on to the next track. What makes the game fun is earning credits on each track. These credits will open up new levels, bonus games, as well as new characters and cars for you to choose from. You earn credits on each track by completing three goals. The first goal is earning a gold, silver, or bronze medal on each track by finishing the track in a certain amount of time. The better the medal, the more credits you earn. The second goal is to collect all of the gold stars strung throughout each track. The third goal is locating and obtaining a hidden credit on each track. As you acquire newer track levels, the racetracks gradually increase in difficulty and intricacy making these goals harder to reach.

Multiplayer Mode

The multiplayer mode of GripShift is almost as appealing as the regular challenge tracks. You can not only hook up wirelessly in races against other PSP owners, but you can also create tracks with the track editor and then allow your friends to play these tracks on their PSP. So not only do you get the thrill of competing head-to-head on the race track, you also get to watch them try to figure out the diabolical tracks you've designed yourself. It might not seem like much on paper, but it's a nice element to an already addictive game.

Graphics

The visuals in GripShift tend to vary a lot. Most of the cars and tracks all have a nice, detailed look to them, but it's worth noting that there is a lot of open spaces in the game that tend to make part of the track areas look a little bland. Normally this wouldn't be much of a problem, but since you spend a good portion of your time falling off into these open spaces, it might have been a nice attention to detail to make them look a little more detailed. The frame rate in the game maintains a steady pace, and given the speed at which some of the tracks scroll around, it's quite an impressive feat to see it moving along so smoothly. While GripShift certainly isn't going to set new standards in PSP visuals, the game has just enough flash to keep things interesting.

Sound

Musically there's a good amount of variety in the techno/hip-hop musical styling found throughout the many different tracks of GripShift. There are even a few rap-influenced tracks to keep things fresh. The California surfer voice announcer comes off really catchy and interesting at first, but after awhile it becomes a little redundant hearing him saying the same things over and over in that slightly exaggerated surfer voice. The only real area of disappointment came with the lack of sound effects in the game. While you'll find plenty of tire squealing and engine revving noises, most of the items you pick up don't seem to make any real sounds. It's a minor omission, but it would have been nice to have a little more depth to the sound effects in the game.

Conclusion

It's refreshing to see a title like GripShift make an appearance on a PSP system that's in dire need of something new and original. While game fans expecting a more traditional racing experience might be a little disappointed in the offbeat gameplay style of GripShift, it still offers up a nice racing-themed game that requires the player to do more than just navigate aimlessly around a race track. There's plenty of challenge found on each track in not only completing each level, but also figuring out exactly how to do it. The racing portions of the game seem a little cheap at times, especially on some of the later levels, as you'll be comfortably ahead of your opponent one minute, and see him whiz by you the next from out of nowhere. All in all its new concept in gameplay will earn GripShift a shinny spot in the still small library of PSP titles.

 

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Playing Hints and Tips

- Once you reach some of the later tracks it's a good idea to watch the track scrolling at the beginning of the level to catch some ideas on to how to maneuver the track.
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- To earn silver and gold medals on some of the more difficult tracks, you're going to have to get a feel for how the controls of the game work. The nitrous boost and handbrake will become your new best friend on some of these more difficult tracks.

- When competing against an opponent on the racing tracks, it's best to save your weapons for the last ¼ of the final lap. Crashing your opponent early on doesn't have many positive effects, as he'll easily catch up to you in no time.

Don't be afraid to take chances and go airborne on some levels. You can do a surprising amount of maneuvering in mid-air and on some levels you'll be required to do this to complete the level.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

GripShift certainly isn't the best looking game on the PSP, but the game moves along at a very steady frame rate, even when the action heats up, and most of the tracks in the game look at least as good as most racing games found on the PS1 system. Luckily, this is the type of game that has enough playability to make you forget about what everything around you looks like and just be able to concentrate on the task at hand.

Sound

Musically, the game's got a nice upbeat, hip-hop style to it that seems to fit the theme of the game quite well. The voice announcer will begin to grate on your nerves after a few hours on the game, but luckily his comments aren't as frequent as they could have been. Sound effects are lacking, but one can only assume that the developers were going with a "less is more" effect.

Fun Meter

If it's one area of GripShift where the game excels, it's in the fun department. Each track presents you with a unique and original challenge to solve, and just being able to complete some of these mind-bending tracks is reward enough. If you're a fan of the short bursts of challenge like those found in Sega's Super Monkey Ball, then you'll find GripShift right up your alley. The high level of difficulty of some of the later tracks is the only thing that slows this game down in the least.

Addictivity

Much like a puzzle game or an RPG, most of the fun in GripShift is found in trying to figure out how to complete each track. Once you've done this, you're only left with the time trials and item collecting. While these areas are fun for awhile, once you've completed all the puzzles, the game starts to become a little repetitive. The track editor is a big plus. Players will enjoy creating their own tracks using the track editor once the initial thrill wears off and share the tracks with their friends.

Total Score= 3.875 Dragons, 77.5%



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