Table Top Racing is a combat-racing series that takes place, as the title would imply, on a table. Miniature cars battle it out in a race to the finish line and clever use of your boost & offensive item pick-ups alongside a knowledge of the track layout are the keys to your victory.
The idea is solid: race toy-sized cars on a wide flurry of different tables in imaginative settings, your tiny size makes everyday items seem huge in comparison which allows for some inventive level design. There are 8 locations in total, ranging from a “Yo! Sushi” restaurant (obvious sponsor is obvious…) to a garage or an early nineties playroom. The locations do have different tracks but you’ll revisit these so often they sadly grow dull fast.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the locations they’ve chosen, but the start of the tracks looks a bit too much like the end of them with not enough original events happening in between. Sure, there’s the odd obstacle in the middle of the road or a shortcut you can unlock by shooting at it, but it feels like there were a lot of unexplored creative ideas that could have lifted the game up to a higher level.
- Driving over a synthesizer and hearing the notes
- A seagull flying in on the docks level and pecking at the cars
- A sushi chef performing show cooking and requiring us to dodge his knife
The overall sense of speed is also below par for a racing game. You never really feel like you’re going anywhere near what anyone would define as “fast”, even after tuning your car. Sure, you’ll beat the competition, but the sensation of velocity is lacking. There are some boosts you can pick up to make up for it, but the effect is shortlived outside of the time attack events where you can pick up a double usage.
One aspect I did like is that you can use the items immediately or save them and use a more powerful version after driving over the pickups a second time. While a single fired straight rocket isn’t that impressive, firing a barrage of them can shut down a few of the cars in front of you with a well-placed shot. Similarly, the homing rockets will increase in number or the EMP attack will have a wider range.
My favourite of the bunch is the ice-attack shown in the image above; it transforms the opponents into ice cubes and they keep going with the same momentum, sliding off the table if you timed it right.
There are 16 different cars to pick from, in three categories (cult classics, street racers or supercars). Most of them look like your average RC cars, but luckily there are some that shine through.
While participating in races, you’ll earn money. Even if you ended up dead last, you’ll still get some reward + during the race each successful hit gets you some moolah as well (the oil-slick/poison attack is especially effective when you’re in first place and all 7 other cars drive through it). The money can then be used to unlock more cars, to upgrade them or to buy new paint jobs. Though I would advise spending some of your hard-earned cash on the wheels first as they can be used on any car.
You can buy wheels that let you earn more money, ones that activate a shield or ones that let you jump, to name a few. The latter is mostly to get to some hard to reach coins but I don’t think the value of the coins actually makes up for the high cost of the wheels… Oddly enough there are wheels that allow you to drift, whereas the regular wheels or the other ones have almost no drifting potential. A strange choice for a racing game…
Controlling the cars never quite feels as accurate as it should be: you’ll often bump into walls you were sure you were going to miss, you’ll get stuck behind the scenery, which is a fate worse than driving off the table if you don’t immediately reset your car (you’ll go from 1st place to dead last in a single mistake). Next to losing races due to frustrating hitbox detection, the game isn’t challenging at all once you’ve upgraded your car. You’ll have no issue putting some distance between yourself and the opposing racers.
The most fun I’ve had with the game is playing versus real opponents, as the game rightfully includes a local split-screen multiplayer. I’ve been known to subtract a full point for racing games if this feature is missing so I’m happy I got to keep the red pen at bay for this one. TTR has no chance of coming close to the reigning champ of Nintendo Switch combat-racers though; my player 2 only suffered a few rounds before wanting to go back to Mario Kart 8.
We’ve come to the end of the review but I do believe I haven’t mentioned the graphics & audio yet. The game looks fine, but as is common with the portable version, you’ll see some jagged edges as there doesn’t seem to be any anti-aliasing. It runs at a smooth 60FPS and usually the speed in a racing game should stop you from noticing minor visual flaws, but again: we’re not moving at blistering speeds in this one. Sound design is poor, to say the least. I did not care much for the soundtrack at all, consisting mostly out of repetitive loops, and the sound effects were pretty basic too.
One last technical hiccup that bears mentioning are the loading times. Launching the game, starting a race or even worse: restarting one, takes way too long. Especially restarting the current race should almost be instantaneous but feels like it takes ages.
It feels like I’m coming off rather negative and that’s because I had perhaps set my expectations too high. The idea seemed brilliant enough that it should warrant a good time, but the execution is lacking: The blueprint is mostly all right, but it needed some extra time in the garage.
While the title introduces some new content compared to previous releases on other platforms, it still comes short of feeling like a good racing game. The sense of speed isn’t there, the tracks, while inspired, get dull after revisiting them over and over and the core gameplay just isn’t fun. The main saving grace is the split-screen multiplayer, but it’s no easy feat finding a player 2 who wants to keep playing.
(A review copy for Nintendo Switch was provided by the PR company)