Retro Rewind - GripShift Review
The timer counts down. An option between 3 different challenges await me over the starting line. As soon as I hear "GO!" my car hits the accelerator and off I race through an interesting, physics based circuit. The timer is tough but I know I can achieve all three goals at once. I collect all the stars while drifting around winding corners and then carry out an impressive 180 degree turn.
I notice the GripShift logo hovering directly above me so I high tail it towards the nearest jump, hurling my car straight into the logo. That's two out of three completed. I have five seconds left to make the course and achieve all the requirements. Racing to the finish line, I'm infuriated to find that I am just 0.2 of a second too late. Instead of giving up, the addiction and adrenaline kicks in. I reload the level...
Those are the kind of insane stunts and gameplay you'll find in GripShift, a racing (sort of) game that can be found on XBLA. I was able to play this gem thanks to the Xbox One reverse compatibility, and just like many classics, I loved every minute of it! There were a few isolated incidents in which I wanted to throw my controller at the wall but I took a few deep breaths and persevered.
GripShift feels a lot like Trials except with three challenges to every circuit categorized into different difficulty levels. Your job is to achieve all of these while making your way to the end track. It starts off relatively easy, with some simple tracks to navigate around and achieve those challenges. The first challenge is to race around the circuit through a number of checkpoints. The second challenge is to collect all the stars scattered across the circuit and the final challenge is to obtain the elusive GripShift logo that is usually hovering some place hard to reach. As the circuits go on, the challenges just get that much harder.
However, even as difficult as it became, I felt addicted to try and complete the game. It was frustrating a few times but the more I played, the more fun I seemed to have and the tracks became even more insane! After racing through a few tracks I was also able to purchase much faster (and better handling) cars to attempt the more difficult runs. While they aren't too versatile with choices, the cars do have the extra 'oomph' needed to complete some of the more difficult trials. As simple as GripShift is, I find that simple usually means better.
Not too many controls are needed to navigate your car around the crazy tracks, with one button for acceleration, another for braking or drifting and the analog stick to steer. The controls are never clunky and it feels very fluid when driving your car through the air and around the edges. The mid-air controls are actually quite fun to mess around with, even if not ultra-realistic. Before you know it, you're sliding, flying, and hitting high speeds with the best of them.
Considering that this is an Xbox 360 Arcade release, I'd say that the graphics have aged well. It didn't feel like a relatively old game and the backgrounds are something you can appreciate longer than the cars you find yourself in. You may even find yourself purposely falling so that you can check out more of the spacey vista. For some reason you find yourself high up in the atmosphere with all of these circuits but that just adds to the epic quality. The Xbox One helps to increase the graphics a little more but not by much. All in all, it's a colorful beauty.
As soon as I began playing some of the circuits, I was astounded by the playlist. People often care little about the playlist or soundtrack to games, which is a pity as they really bring out more in any game if done well.
GripShift is no different with their cool, techno tracks accompanying the circuits. The sound effects are also quite well done, with the usual revving engines, boosts/turbos, wind whooshing past and drifting skids. Basically, what you would tend to expect when playing a racing game.
While it is an addictive and fun game to play, GripShift is a hard game to replay once you've completed all the challenges and races. Unless you care about getting your name to the top of the leader board or jumping online for multiplayer, there seems to be little to bring you back into the fold.
As I described before, this game is quite fun when you are playing it the first time around and stays that way until you've completed every race, star collection, and logo hunt. After this, it tends to become tedious as you're basically completing in time trials against yourself and other online players.
Having said that, the hours that encompass your play time are a riot and if you can actually get some other players online, you can have a few more hours of said fun!
Unfortunately, GripShift isn't perfect and (funnily enough) the driving aspect can become quite boring. Focusing a little more on the gameplay and the racing mechanics might have made all the difference in the world. Falling off the track into the surrounding abyss, no matter how good you are, seems to be a common occurrence.
The score for this little retro gem is 6/10. Simply because of the completionist ideals that make you keep playing the game and the physics based circuits. The challenges are frustrating at times but never to the point of where you want to just give up.
A split-screen multiplayer or co-op option would have been a nice addition and perhaps a few more challenges added would make it more riveting (instead of the same three over and over). There is always a faster or better way to achieve the goals required and since the tracks are suspended in the air, one wrong move is all you need to meet your doom.
Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the driving mechanics can become a little tiresome, with very little to ways effectively control your car. The drifting seems a little weak, easily spinning out of control and the acceleration/top speed could also have been a little better. After playing for a little while, the sense of speed wanes and you feel as if you're moving very slowly.
I highly recommend this game to anyone who doesn't have much time on their hands, simply due to the game's simplicity and quick levels. Young gamers would probably have a better handle on things but veteran gamers can quickly find their sweet spot too.