Game Review – Table Top Racing: World Tour

Table Top Racing: World Tour is an miniature arcade racing game by Playrise Digital, released May 26, 2016 on Steam, and earlier that month on PS4. [Xbox One release in the works] It’s a much higher fidelity sequel/overhaul of sorts of their original mobile title for iOS/Android/Vita. Review last updated 2016/06/16.

Banner - Table Top Racing World Tour

Aspect Ratios HUD/Menu issues outside of 16:9
Framerate Cap 144+
SLI No
Performance Mixed
Options Sufficient
Key Rebinding Yes
Controller Support/Rebinding Yes, 2 Presets
Local Co-op No (Online Multiplayer Only)


PC Port Quality

Made in Unity so it has usual quirks like no exclusive fullscreen support. They’ve opted out of the launcher here so you can’t change the monitor selection, and it doesn’t save the last value if you move it over manually, so it will launch to whatever display your system sees as “Monitor 1” which is independent of your “Main Display” (the one with the taskbar). They’ve also set their fullscreen toggle to the F1 key, disabling the standard Alt-Enter command. There are a few intro logos, all of which are unskippable and you can’t disable them in an .ini/.cfg because of how Unity locks down it’s files.

Table Top Racing - Graphics Options

Graphics options include an on/off toggle for AA, DOF, V-sync, and a few levels of Ambient Occlusion, and these can be changed mid-race, though the volume sliders (SFX and Music) only exist in the one through the main menu… Performance wise it’s very easy to run, however ambient occlusion is clearly wasn’t optimized and can drop rate significantly. At an unwavering 120FPS, I noticed subtle stuttering that would come and go more or less depending on the map. I’d imagine it’s the result of some sort of v-sync conflict or result of being borderless windowed, but it definitely doesn’t maintain the fluidity that the framerate would imply.

Table Top Racing - Ultrawide
Ultrawide – HUD skewed and missing current weapon (bottom right) – All other menus essentially unusable

The game renders aspect ratios thinner and wider than 16:9 properly, but the HUD loses a few elements (you can’t see the weapon you’ve picked up), and the menu UI stretches and expands to the point of being completely unusable. There’s no FOV adjustment (the default didn’t bother me) but there are 4 camera distances/heights you can toggle through.

Table Top Racing - Keyboard and Controller Binds
Key Rebinding and Controller Presets

They offer two preset button configs for controllers (trigger vs face button brake/throttle), with almost full rebinding (you can’t rebind most of the primary menu navigation controls) for the keyboard. The controller bindings are intuitive and overall the menus are responsive and mostly intuitive to navigate outside of a few small issues. Vertical menus don’t loop around when you reach the top or bottom which you encounter when exiting the game as it’s at the bottom of the list, and they left the PS4’s “Trophies” button in which now does nothing when it could be coded to launch the Achievement menu in the Steam overlay.

Table Top Racing - Championship and Special Events
Championship and Special Event Menus

The event menus aren’t great, as selecting an event that requires a car of a different tier than the one selected (inexplicably you select vehicles/wheels/skins prior to selecting an event) produces an error, while the special events that require a specific car auto-select just fine… They could solve this by letting you select a favorite for each tier, but the more optimal solution would be to streamline the vehicle selection and put it after the event has been chosen. They have images for every car in every skin, so a simpler 2D selection screen should be a smoother experience vs navigating to the separate garage, backing out, and re-selecting the event that you have now. On a similar note they have these nice cards that sum up the events laid out horizontally for the special events, but in a second layer in all of the championships. Having all of the event icons and star ratings visible is nice as is seeing the event card, so a side-by-side approach would have worked better in both the championship and special event screens. On the upside it does store your skin and wheel selections per-car, gaining back some lost time.


Gameplay

There are 6 modes to play [ Races with and without weapons enabled (7 AI), Hot Lap (the best single lap within a time limit), Time Trial (best time to complete x number of laps), Elimination (each lap removes the car in last), Pursuit (catch up and bash into a car that starts far ahead of you), and Drift (points increase the longer you keep a combo, holding a combo lets you continue past the timer) ] on 20 track routes through 5 locations (table tops). The tracks feature a number of shortcuts locked behind objects and elevation, accessed via the 8 run of the mill weapon pickups (that can only be aimed forwards and get more effective after picking up a second bubble) and 6 unlockable wheels with offensive/defensive/movement capabilities. Outside of those alternate wheels, it’s all pretty standard.

Table Top Racing - Gameplay

Now, I have somewhat of a knack for racing games so this may be a bit skewed, but I found the majority of the game to be far too easy. I would describe the handling as F1 with heavy traction control. Unless you’re using the dedicated drift wheels, there’s almost no slide without flicking the wheel as there’s no handbrake, nor does there seem to be a way to lose traction and force an overseer with the throttle. Most sliding will be done after jumps that lie just before a turn, as you’re allowed mid-air rotation control. Being the opposite of drift-focused arcade racers (Mario Kart, Sonic Racing, etc), you’d expect following a proper racing line to be key. While partially true, the game doesn’t seem to carry enough momentum for that to be enough of a factor, especially for the low and medium tier vehicles, and thus I didn’t find them to be all that engaging to drive. The game only really finds itself with the highest tier, and I’d quite like another faster beyond that.

The shortcuts make certain challenges dramatically easier, and range from elevated sections accessed by jumping (on cooldown) with the Boing wheels equipped, large gaps that can be cleared with the same wheels, and hidden jumps and paths behind objects that can be opened up by the second stage of all weapons except boost (breakable objects have a pink glow about them). Considering the AI ignores all of it, they aren’t often necessary, as the weapon rolls and the wheels you’re using can make it so that you don’t really get to utilize them or don’t manage to open them up till near the end of the race.

While not for everyone, the most fun I’ve had has been in the Drift mode. With the right car (some are far better than others, and their drifting potential is listed right on the car selection screen) it isn’t too difficult, and is very satisfying as you slide through the turns, have a lot of control over your turning radius using the throttle/brake, and have to plan ahead in a way that you don’t when racing normally. You can get a similar feel by equipping the drift wheels for most other races, but that’s usually a hindrance as you don’t really have control over the grip to prevent sliding on subtle turns, and there’s no acceleration advantage coming out of turns (like any other arcade title with a drifting mechanic) that would help balance it out.

Table Top Racing - Camera Positions
4 Camera Positions

The standard chase cam has 3 distances to toggle through; I definitely prefer it over the fixed or track-aligned top-down cameras often found in other miniature racing titles. I think it works very well outside of two small issues. There are a few maps with low-hanging geometry that when driven under cause the camera to glitch out quickly before slowly panning back to the proper position, and inexplicably the only camera control is a rear view mapped to the bumper; the right analog stick isn’t used for anything… A Codemasters-style rotation (the camera points towards the exact direction you push the stick, rotating smoothing by waving the stick in a full circle, before snapping back to center when released) would be fantastic both for observing the maps as you play, but also to get a better look at the awesome car models. I’d also like to see camera pitch control while in the menus; the simple model rotation isn’t great.


Progression & Pay Model

All cars, skins, and wheels are locked by a simple in-game currency earned by completing events and collecting one-off hidden bronze/silver/gold coins hidden within the levels. 5 seconds with CheatEngine can get around this currency entirely if you so choose. The 6 championships (2 per tier) of the base game are locked one after another in series, so even if you can buy the mid or high tier cars, you can’t use them till you’ve finished the previous championships. The Special Events, which tend to require a specific vehicle or wheel choice, would be an option, but those are locked by an EXP-based leveling system. The super weapons only unlock after completing the first two championships.

Table Top Racing - 12 Cars
12 Cars (+4 more with 1st DLC Pack) – [CLICK FOR 3D MODEL VIEWER]
The game launched with a single DLC with hints towards two more to come. The “Supercharger Pack” [$5.99] which includes an Indiana-Jones/Egypt inspired track and 4 new cars (Mini Cooper, Toyota AE86 (Initial D), Bugatti Veyron, and a modern version of Ken Block’s Mustang). Outside of a DLC button on the main menu, it didn’t save to wave any of this in your face if you haven’t purchased it. Once purchased/downloaded the new cars are included in as AI, and I don’t recall them showing up prior. The pack adds additional special events, and one new championship for each tier. Annoyingly they afford freedom only to DLC purchasers because all of the events are completely unlocked from the beginning (where all the base events are locked by EXP or prior events), and all 4 of the cars don’t require coins until you get to upgrading them. I hate progression systems and restrictions in paid titles, so I’d say remove the unlocks entirely. Making claims about the importance of progression, and then immediately going back on that when someone throws you a few dollars more for a DLC pack, shows how little justification there was for it in the first place.

Table Top Racing - Car Upgrades
Car Upgrade and Customization Menu

You can get around some of it by cheating (or grinding on console), but the game seems set on slowly rolling out mechanics, track layouts, vehicles, wheels, skins, events. That in itself isn’t too much of a problem, but pairing that the lack of a free-play mode means players with any skill are forced to sit through what they might not have played otherwise to get to any real challenge; that’s just not how a paid entertainment medium should operate. Even after you’ve completed everything, this also makes finding any specific race type and track layout pairing for more fussy than it ever needed to be. In most other racing games it takes seconds to pick a car, track, and mode, but that just isn’t available here, and it’s the first thing I would implement if development continues. To address my earlier complaints as well and kill two birds, they could also implement various modifiers (speed, grip, item filters, AI count/difficulty, etc) to help diversify and tailor play for more long-term appeal.

Table Top Racing - Online Lobby
Online Multiplayer Lobby

Finally, I was not able to test the 8-player online multiplayer as I simply couldn’t find a game, and local split-screen isn’t available but is said to be in the works. When you go there however, it makes you create lobbies separately if you wish to play the DLC map or not. So what happens if two more DLC packs come out, are we going to have 4 separate lobby types, and maybe another for owners of all the DLC? It seems unwise to me to segregate the players of a game that might never have any more than a few at a time until it hits a deep sale or bundle. I’d recommend including all the files within the base download, allowing the new tracks to be played online by all; it should be an easy compromise considering the average DLC buyer is likely interested in using the new cars themselves.


Presentation

The adorable car models were what attracted me to the game initially. They’re honestly the most detailed and polished models I’ve seen from this genre, and for some reason their designs are so appealing to me that I’d genuinely be interested in buying physical models of them. The surrounding aesthetic has a few rough spots, but uses a nice variety of shaders and materials. The colorful lighting is basic but sound, though the cars lack distinct cast shadows in some of the indoor locations, and the outdoor Junkyard and Egypt locations lack ambient lighting that would mimic the indirect (bounced) sunlight, making shaded areas darker than they should be.

The UI and HUD feature an odd selection of fonts/styles, though it’s functional outside of a lack of feedback concerning lap counts and position. A larger, Mario Kart-style position counter with color coding (Gold-Silver-Bronze, something that can be understood without actually reading the number) would be great along with at the very least a “Last Lap!” pop-up message.

The video below is a solid example of what the game has to offer. My favorite handling and sounding car, running a time trial on a medium complexity track. Competent players will likely maintain the lead for the majority of each race, so other cars aren’t a factor when not playing with other humans.

The generic electronic soundtrack was hit or miss… I was okay with a number of tracks, but there were also a number that I really disliked. A “Skip Song” button or better yet a list of toggles would have been welcome, though most will want to listen to their own music or maybe just the sound effects… The effects and engine sounds are surprisingly well done for an indie team. Most of the cars seem to have unique engine profiles (the exotic cars being particularly satisfying), and the collisions are a mix of the light plastic clacking of a toy car, and a variety of materials (porcelain, tin, thick metal, wood, etc.) matching the objects littered around the course. There isn’t much at all in terms of ground/tire materials or environmental reverberation. I enjoyed the tones and variety between the Mustang, Zonda, McLaren… but I must say that I’d have preferred them at about twice the volume and abrasiveness. They’re good, just disappointingly muffled/toned-down.


Conclusion

Table Top Racing: World Tour is a simple little game with a charming aesthetic (mainly for gearheads who appreciate the heavily inspired car designs and recognize the iconic skins) and matching sound effects, but unfortunately also features some odd choices that leave a bit to be desired. It boils down to the lack of a custom/free-play mode, raw speed (and thus challenge) in all but the late-game vehicles, and polish concerning some of the map physics and UI. Fixing these problems should be feasible, I just hope the upcoming DLC comes along side and not in favor of refinement of the base game. If improvements along those lines (primarily the custom races and modifiers; like what 200cc did for Mario Kart 8) are ever made, I can easily move it up to a more solid recommendation over the niche recommendation I’m giving it for now.

Table Top Racing World Tour - Scorecard


For full disclosure, Table Top Racing: World Tour was provided by the developer for review. If you found this review helpful, consider a rating on Steam.


Avatar - Circle - MangoTangoFoxEnquiriesMangoTangoFoxReviews@Gmail.com
MangoTangoFox on Twitter
MangoTangoFox on Steam

Related Posts

Leave a reply

TECHFRESHNESS NEWSLETTER

Occasional updates and giveaways.