Surely kart racing with such big heads would increase the chances of whiplash?
It is almost as if Sony sat down with a checklist when they first worked out their launch line-up for the Vita. Big name action game – Uncharted, check! Racing game – WipEout 2048, check! Puzzle game – Escape Plan, check! Quirky game – Little Deviants, check! Sports game – Everybody’s Golf, check!
When it came to a Kart racer, there was really only one choice for Sony – Modnation Racers, which makes sense as the series has performed so well on other platforms. The quick hit of short racing bursts combined with the creation offered by the series, and the availability of more tracks than you could ever race, makes it the perfect match for playing on the go and more lengthy gaming sessions. Well, as long as it all works properly, that is…
The inspiration for Modnation racers is obviously Mario Kart, which has pretty much been the inspiration for every kart racer since, and Modnation Racers: Road trip does a good job of nailing all of the imortant aspects of the game. Varied courses, cute visuals and both defensivce and offensive pick ups ensure that anyone who has played a kart racer of the last few years will know what they are doing.
But the main selling point of the original Modnation Racers on PS3, and subsequently this version, are the Little Big Planet style creation options. Customise your kart, your racer, even build your own tracks in the track editor. It all works very well, with the player having to unlock new customisation items as they work through the pre-made tracks.
The driving itself works well, if perhaps not quite as tightly as the original. Races can be tense affairs, with simple mistakes or the well-placed use of a weapon forcing racers to gain and drop places with startling regularity. The pick ups are for the most part clones of those you can find in any kart racer, except for the fact that they can be leveled up by picking up further weapon pick ups ofthe same type to make them more powerful. The level three weapons can be quite impressive.
Players have a meter which fills by pulling off drifts or tricks whilst in the air. The meter is used by the boost, a handy shield for fending off attacks, and side-swiping other racers, which can lead to some frustrating moments of wishing you hadn’t used it just before that missile threw you from first to sixth. In fact, I would say that there are too many ways to drop places like that in the game.
The controls all work quite well, with the sticks and buttons doing what they should during racing. Things can get a little fussy during the creation process when using the touchscreens, precision is not what it should be, but the new technology of the Vita had to be slipped in somewhere.
Visually, there is nothing to complain about. Whilst the game does not look as impressive as the PS3 version, it has made improvements over the PSP game. The main game feels a bit sterile, having lost much of its charm by dropping the humourous cut-scenes from inbetween races. The result feels much like you are only racing to unlock new stuff for the customisation.
So far, it is all good. Not great, but certainly an enjoyable diversion. However, something seems to have gone wrong with the multiplayer. Instead of being able to jump online and enjoy some frantic kart racing action with buddies, the player is limited to either local ad-hoc action, which is not really ideal in this world without limits, or racing another players ghost in an attempt to beat their time. There is an online leaderboard to compare your times with, but the lack of a solid online mode is perhaps what damages this game the most.
If you are looking for a racing game on the Vita, there are other, more obvious choices. But if it is karting that you want specifically, or you fancy indulging your creative urges, then Modnation Racers: Road Trip will have to do. It is in no way the best kart racing game, but it is acceptable as long as you are not looking for online play.