Hybrid titles are becoming increasingly popular these days, as developers blend two genres together to create, as the press release would say "an entirely new experience". The latest culmination of two genres comes in Gripshift, which is a combination of both the racing and puzzle genres. Just challenging one of these genres is hard enough, (with Burnout and Lumines being the most popular titles for their respectable genres) so taking on both of them is quite a task. The game features a lower price point in Australia, so is it a title you're going to want to pick up for christmas? Or are you best leaving it out of your grip?
The main mode in the game is the challenge mode, which consists of a series of challenges that increasingly become more difficult, as you navigate through the difficulty levels the challenges become more diverse, and gradually the emphasis slides from racing to puzzle solving. In fact, it is during the challenge mode that a lot of people will begin to draw comparisons to Super Monkey Ball. Each level is also themed, and the themes range from jungle levels to ice levels. In total there are over 100 levels and four worlds to race in. While progressing through the challenge mode it is possible to earn credits, which unlock races and other bonuses, such as decals. There is very little customisation in the game, but there is enough to personalise your vehicle.
Sidhe Interactive have also included a range of mini games, these are unlocked by collecting credits in the challenge mode. There are eight mini games and they vary from penguin bowling (which is fairly self explanatory) to a circular bowl collecting fest. They are a fun quick distraction, with some a little better than others.
The track editor mode is definitely one of the best aspects of the title, as there is a decent amount of freedom in the editor so it's possible to create the track you desire and thankfully it doesn't take very long either, we would love to see this feature implemented into more racing games as it adds substantially to Gripshift.
Wi-fi support has been included for those who like to play with more than themselves; in the game of course. You can play six out of the eight the minigames in multiplayer, as well as play deathmatch and take part in a few other modes. It's also possible to play multiplayer on the track you've created with the track editor mode which means you can create the perfect battle tracks.
Whilst there is no denying that there is a wealth of game modes, the gameplay is where the game starts to lose it's grip a little. The handling itself is some of the most bizarre we've ever experienced in a "racing" title. This is a very loose tag as the cars control like something we've never experienced before; and it doesn't exactly feel fair.
We would liken the handling to that of a PC game we used to play called Elastomania, it really does feel like the vehicles are on elastic. Despite some of the poor handling on other racing games on the PSP, if you persisted you could pick the handling up after a while, through our entire playtime we still had an issue with the handling all the way through; and the average handling really shines in race mode. If you want the handling to feel better then at least in multiplayer both players are handicapped by it.
Normally we make mention of the loading in PSP titles because it is so long, we have to commend Gripshift as you are never waiting more than five seconds for the game to begin, the loading in the game is simply some of the best we've seen in a PSP to date, and it's not due to a lack of options.
Graphically the presentation is fairly basic, the tracks look vibrant with the four themes fitting the style of the game well. The graphics aren't exactly memorable, but we didn't experience any slowdown at any stage of the game and this is including when the action began to heat up a little with weapons flying everywhere.
The sound is fairly acceptable, but doesn't offer anything in the way of innovation. It is fairly forgettable and aside from the novelty weapon noises and the usual sounds the soundtrack isn't going to be anything you remember after you turn the PSP off. We really think that the game could have benefitted from a much more upbeat soundtrack, overall it just sounds a little flat and the sounds are fairly repetitive.
If you can get past the handling then the game itself will last a decent amount of time. Sidhe have included a mountain of game modes and the track editor itself should keep you entertained for a while. The single player mode is long enough to get a lot of value (especially at a lower price point of $49.95) but the multiplayer could make this game stay in your PSP longer. Considering both players are disadvantaged by the average handling this should make for some entertaining battles and the wide range of modes should ensure the game doesn't become repetitive.
Did we really need another racing game? Well, no we didn't, but we do appreciate that Sidhe Interactive actually tried to deliver something a little different. Gripshift actually had a lot of potential, a lot of it is realised but we really think the physics are a big let down, it feels more like you're in a moon simulation game than a racing title, Super Monkey Ball remained fun while retaining normal pyschics. If you've been following the game and could withstand the physics engine then there is a surprisingly deep game below the surface, but if you can see it being a hinderance then it is hard to recommend the title, if you don't take it so seriously you might genuinely be surprised.