Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 23rd Feb 2012 Platforms:
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The Vita may already have Wipeout in its starting lineup - a strong racing title, no doubt - and one that fills a necessary hole for gamers wanting to get down and dirty into those time trials. But for those less serious, SCE San Diego is bringing their brand of racer to the Vita as well. ModNation Racers: Road Trip is deep and well crafted enough to take seriously, but with the focus firmly on fun.
If youíre not familiar with the PS3 version of ModNation, youíll undoubtedly be familiar with its ďinspirationĒ, which is a rather kind way of putting it. It certainly does look like another karting game out there. Go on, have a guess. Stars a certain Italian plumber? Bananas? Mushrooms? Rhymes with Schmario Shmart?
If you havenít been living under a red shell for years and have had a round or two of the olí MarioKart, you can draw straight lines from many of the powerups - and specific mechanics - to that of ModNation.
The slipstream from MKN64 which gives you a speed boost for successfully trailing right behind another racer is present. As are weapons such as little mines you can lay on the track, both straight-shooting and homing projectiles, shields, and boosts. You canít drag items on the back of your kart for protection, but you can shoot some of them backwards.
But a seemingly small point of difference in ModNation has a massive effect: each powerup can be charged up to more powerful levels by driving through the same type of powerup again. These can go up to a level of three, and turn something like a straightforward boost into an outright teleport. Both are potential match-winners, but the level three reward is easily worth waiting for.
Thatís where the Vita versionís new additions come in, starting with a few new weapons. A machinegun projectile that fires several smaller pellets - rather than one big risky shot - can be useful in a ďsprayĒ attack while turning. Another icy projectile predictably freezes opponents, and a firey projectile acts as a hybrid at level three, both shielding you and sending a deadly phoenix forward.
These new items donít really break any new ground, but that can be seen as a good thing. Theyíre visually exciting - and still plenty useful - without breaking the tried and true balance of powerups from the first ModNation. Most tracks I played on did seem to favour the original items however, making firing the new level three weaponry somewhat of a special occasion.
But most of the shiny newness is found in the track creator mode. Previously, laying down the shape of a track was done by driving around a big asphalt-laying machine within a barren pit. The landscape can conform to a few different presets - for whether you want an icy level, or a hot desert track, etc - and thereís plenty of space to work with. But there was no real way to take an objective birds-eye look at your creation and tweak it.
Road Trip lets you use the Vitaís front touchscreen to draw a track with your finger. Itís as simple as that. Coupled with the returning ďAuto-populateĒ feature, which fills your empty track with basic objects from boosts to shrubbery, the time it takes to make a track is stupidly low. A no-frills effort will easily take under a minute - of course, installing those crazy loop-the-loops and ridiculous jumps (which is kind of the point, right?) will take a little longer.
For more precise placement, the Vita will also let you rotate objects with its new motion controls within the game world. We didnít actually find this much more useful or time-saving than just using the two analog sticks, but itís a novel gimmick if you want the option. And as before, quick taps of the left and right triggers will Undo and Redo, respectively.
Unlike elsewhere in the Vita launch lineup, Road Tripís added functionality isnít intrusive or mandatory, and in the case of drawing a track, itís even welcome. Our biggest beef is that, despite the great Vita hardware, level creation in Road Trip seems to lag quite a bit, both while placing objects and in the general menus.
Making tracks still manages to be robust without being as clunky and complex as, say, LittleBigPlanetís creator. But even if you donít want to brave the lag, you can still take advantage of the extensive library of tracks already built up on the PS3 version, thanks to some impressive cross-platform compatibility. You canít really go wrong with features like that. They extend the life of your game infinitely, and in the case of Road Trip you donít even have to wait for the worldís creative freaks to flex their track making muscles.
There are plenty of ways you can customise your racer - and kart - too. Colours, stripes, stickers... Think LittleBigPlanet, but without quite as many silly props like pirate hats. If you care about such things, itís quite extensive, and even if you donít, it can make it easy to see who just bumped you off the track as they passed. And when you finally save up that level-three lightning bolt, itís ďpink stickers guyĒ youíll be aiming for.
As for the gameís own tracks, the corners youíll grind through and ramps youíll trick over have been given the same amount of love as any of Nintendoís tarmac. And SCE San Diego have stopped short of copying specific tracks - everything here is original. Although the trackís moving parts - insidiously aimed at slowing down the player in front - subscribe to the familiar ďfun over competitionĒ theory of evening the gap between players.
With the extensive customisation, robust level editor with instant access to the PS3 library, and overall polished track design, it doesnít really matter where the ideas in ModNation came from. Itís one of the more complete packages in the Vita launch lineup, and also one of the safest bets in terms of having fun.