January 8, 2007 - Last year, Sidhe Interactive introduced one of the most unique driving titles ever seen on a console with their portable racer, Gripshift. The title combined racing, platforming, car combat elements and puzzles together with wildly exaggerated tracks to make one of the strangest car games around. It also managed to have some of the oddest tracks around which challenged even the best drivers with its wacky grasp of physics. But just how does the game translate over to the PS3? http://ps3media.ign.com/ps3/image/article/753/753761/gripshift-20070108064913671-000.jpg
For fans of the original game, you'll take solace in knowing that the initial formula remains essentially intact without any massive differences. Players still choose from one of four initial drivers (which doesn't impact gameplay at all) and four initial cars, each with their own speed, acceleration and handling stats. Even though the game boasts about having tighter vehicle handling, the cars will peel, slide and bounce around the tracks the exact same way, regardless of their stats. Some stats that were in the PSP version of the game have even been removed from the PS3 version because they didn't have an impact on the game itself. While that's a definite problem when it comes to distinguishing between the vehicle's performance, there's a bonus: players will be able to use the lack of weight or mass to their vehicles to maneuver their cars around the wildly designed courses, defying the laws of gravity and physics to cross the finish line. Thanks to the analog sticks of the SIXAXIS, it's definitely much easier to control these cars than it was on the PSP.
It's actually an understatement to say "wild" as a description of the various courses within Gripshift; perhaps a more accurate statement would be Evel Knievel's nightmares from a plane of hell. There are now more than 125 various tracks in the single player challenge mode of Gripshift, scattered across four "worlds," and each one is suspended in mid-air with hazards like rocks, air vents, massive loops, drawbridges and moving platforms. Players are given one of three goals to complete on these levels before time runs out, like completing the course as fast as possible, gathering all of the stars on a stage or collecting Gripshift icons. Successfully crossing the finishing line with one or more of these goals completed earns credits, which are redeemed automatically at set intervals for a number of unlockable items, such as skins and decals for cars, music, vehicles, racers and even mini-games. More often than not, completing all of the goals on a specific level will require multiple playthroughs, especially as you get to the higher levels of difficulty and the puzzle elements start increasing.
How do you launch a car from one small piece of ground to another without having a ramp? Often, this requires simply flinging your car into objects and using the in-air controls to change the pitch of your vehicle to land on a new area. New to the PS3 version of Gripshift is the ability to use the SIXAXIS controller to control the tilt that your car takes in flight. While it's an interesting feature, it's isn't really useful to the game itself -- you can't drive around the track using the sensor functionality of the controller, and simply relying on it for up and down pitch in mid-air isn't as sensitive as the analog stick is. However, apart from the limited functionality of the SIXAXIS Controller is the gnawing sense that many of these levels blend together and feel extremely similar to the handheld version. With the exception of additional stages in each race world, you're really playing the same puzzles over and over again.
The race mode, which pulls tracks direct from the challenge mode, returns as well and still offers single races, time challenges, practice races or a championship series across a number of tracks. Of course, there's a bit of a spin within the race mode: while the Time Challenges pit you against a clock, the single and championship races place you against up to three computerized opponents, with missiles and dynamite that can be used on your fellow racers to ensure that you cross the finishing line first. While you can earn credits to unlock items in the race mode, you can only do so in the single player version of the game; playing multiplayer races will earn you nothing at all, which is somewhat weak.
While the majority of items from the game have made the crossover to the PS3, one feature does appear to have been left on the cutting room floor that would've been an excellent addition to the title. The track editor for the PSP version of the game is nowhere to be found, which would've been perfect for the PlayStation Network and its lack of content. Players could've built new levels and traded them with friends or posted them online. Instead, racers are restricted to the number of coursed included in the game, and although it's much larger than the original title, after a while even the most rabid Gripshift fan will become bored with these stages. You can only fling a car through the air so many times.
Fortunately, the game is visually easy on the eyes. Car models and levels have received a visual enhancement to increase the wild, MC Escher-like stages and cartoon-like driving of the game. While it's definitely sharper than the PSP game, it's not a massive leap in visual technology. It feels like you're playing the handheld on the PS3. The sound department, however, has definitely received a heavy boost in the number of songs included, with a large emphasis on techno beats.
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