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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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):
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.
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.
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.
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.