When you’re handed a iPad displaying an indie game, from an indie studio you’ve never heard of, you’d be forgiven for wondering exactly what on earth you could be about to play. I had this very same thought at this year’s Eurogamer Expo when PlayRise Digital’s CEO Nick Burcombe showed me TableTop Racing – I now feel like a fool for doubting myself. It’s easy to do though, even Burcombe himself says just how crowded the app market is; however he knows the vast potential of a successful app – clue: it’s well beyond anything a AAA console game could wish to achieve.
Pitched as Micro Machines meets Mario Kart, PlayRise are already understating exactly what TableTop Racing is: a vast and addictive arcade-style racer that features deep customisation options and plenty of content to keep any iOS player happy. Just as the name suggests, you’ll race around in Mircro Machine-esque vehicles across courses laid out on environments around the house. While you may be watching out for that greasy spoon or ketchup stain spilt on the tablecloth, you’ll also need to be on the lookout for weapon and item pickups to help you progress through each race so you hit the front of the pack.
It’s also wonderfully simple to play. Your vehicle, be it sports car, jeep or even an ice-cream truck, accelerates automatically so all you have to focus on is turning and picking up items to use. This does away with a layer of complexity that could put some racing newcomers off TableTop Racing completely, and instead allows you to focus almost completely upon trashing your opponents with weapons or creating shortcuts with gadgets.
As this is a racing game that comes from the studio founded by a WipEout co-creator, this isn’t the easy game you may have expected from its toybox art style and colourful menus. Featuring four increasingly difficult cups to play through in Career mode, to make sure you become the best tabletop racer around you’ll have to upgrade you vehicle of choice; and boy are there plenty of things you can upgrade.
Paying a visit to the garage allows you to spend your hard earned – or easily bought – coins on improving your vehicle. You’ll be able to increase attributes such as speed and handling, but you can also change tyre types to modify how you race. Fancy being able to bound over obstacles? Well, equip the bouncy tyres for some airborne fun! There’s literally hundreds of possible combinations you could use, and you can even change aesthetic qualities on each car to make it more personal to you.
TableTop Racing is really quite an ambitious title, but with the skill and expertise available at the Liverpool based indie studio it’s understandable that they’ll pull it off with ease. It’s a beauty to behold, and thanks to some clever scaling mechanics it’ll work on iOS devices as low as the 3GS iPhone, and still look stunning if you decide to pick it up on iPad or even Mac (which may come later).
Just like PlayRise Digital’s other game Baby NomNom this is scheduled for a January/Q1 2013 release and was still very much a work in progress when I got a chance to play it. However, when it releases in that key window it deserves to mop up a whole audience of new iOS device owners with its simple gameplay, deep customisation and immense character – I suppose it’s biggest opposition is the App Store itself.