Table Top Racing: World Tour. Reading that title will most likely take your mind on a nostalgia trip, fuelled by non-existent fumes from Micro Machines driving around on a racetrack resembling a kitchen bench or pool table. The little engines purr away as they handle another corner, haphazardly bumping an opponent off the edge into the dark void beneath the bench. You’re smiling now, I’m sure.
Well, unfortunately, for all its attempts at forced nostalgia, Table Top Racing: World Tour fails to capture any of the joy from the Micro Machines games of the past, nor does it set itself apart from the many other racing games out there in the world.
Table Top Racing: World Tour (TTR:WR) marks the launch of the previously mobile-based series onto consoles. Fuelled by some of the minds behind the Wipeout series, TTR:WR aims to bring the joy from the handheld to the big screen. Unfortunately, it mostly misses the mark in its attempts to deliver a worthwhile and exciting racing game. Where the mobile versions were scaled for graphical quality, the attempts to add shine and polish to the game – thus transitioning it into a fully-fledged console experience – fails more often than wows.
The main issue with TTR:WR comes down the to question of “why?”. Why does this console version exist, especially given the already flooded racing game market? Sure, the tracks here are different than the usual wide open-road tracks found in many, many other racing games – but the cars are aesthetically mostly the same as what you would expect in a normal racing game, making these ‘different’ tracks somewhat moot. Sure, there are items that you’d regularly find on various sorts of tables – a pool table has pool balls or a dining table has bread for example – but these items lack any sort of weight in terms of them being a proper obstacle. Instead, they become a visual nuisance, floating out of the way when hit with your equally floaty vehicle.
Randomised weapon loadouts litter the tracks, designed to provide the opportunity to knock out an opponent with a rocket or a gust of wind that freezes the opposing car into an ice block. These add a little strategy to the mix, but act more as a light slap with a wet tea towel rather than anything of actual substance. There is no rubber banding here either, so if you happen to fall far enough behind, then it’s nearly impossible to close enough distance to get a podium finish – no matter how many weapons you throw at the opposition. If you’re coming fifth on the second lap, odds are you’ll finish fifth in the match. Ideally, the lack of rubber banding should mean a greater reliance on skill, but the core mechanics don’t support the skilled player.
There’s also a dissonance between the realistic cars on display and the comically oversized tabletop items. Is this supposed to be a call back to when you were a kid playing with toy cars at the beach or over your dinner? Or is it supposed to be a proper racer with realistic cars on various different tables of the world? It doesn’t help that the cars sound like they’re running on bubble bath soap – their motors sound poppy and have an echoic quality to them. To be fair, each car does have a unique feel to them and upgrading to higher powered cars provides a fine challenge. It’s just that the slog to get there with some extremely slow cars is tedious, something that is made all the more frustrating due to the poor handling of the early vehicles.
Alongside the odd-sounding vehicles is the ear numbingly awful selection of music. I have no idea what genre of music this is, but I do know it’s not good. Coming across like a set of tracks from a variety of surf-rock-reggae-funk fusion bands from the nineties, it’s just simply not good. I know music, like any art, is subjective, but this variety of tunes will have you reaching for the ‘mute music’ button very quickly.
There is some joy to be had, but this comes later in the game when you’ve unlocked some of the supercars. There’s a sense that these cars may have been hidden behind micro-transactions on the mobile version. Here, the journey to getting these higher powered cars is one that’s paved with many, many repeat plays of early tracks in order to gain enough points to unlock the higher powered cars. On top of this, TTR:WR has collectibles – of course it does! – in the form of out-of-reach coins. I’m not entirely sure what the point of these coins were, other than providing you with the opportunity to replay the same tracks over and over, albeit the track layout having been altered ever so slightly.
The mobile version is a lot of fun and handles really well – but the limitations of the mobile versions have not been removed in the transition to the technically superior console versions. Visually it looks as good as you’d expect a mobile game blown up on to a big screen to look. Online capabilities are included here but, unfortunately, they are quite a mess in the current format. It took minutes to jump into a game, and when I did manage to get into a game, the host disappeared halfway through, resulting in an abandoned match. When I did finally manage to play a round or three, it wasn’t much better. In one match, an opponent drove under the map for the whole game – every so often they would randomly appear out of a loaf of bread like a car poltergeist, only to disappear under the map once again. To be fair, I only had these problems with the online component of the game and none of these issues raised their heads in the single-player component.
It’s frustrating to see that the transition from mobile to consoles hasn’t worked for Table Top Racing, as the idea is one that’s dripping with nostalgia. I wish that there was something positive to recommend here, but unfortunately this is somewhat of a disappointment – mostly because there is so much that worked in the mobile version that really should have worked on a console version. As with any game, if there were more money and more time, there could have been something great here; as it is, Table Top Racing: World Tour is simply another dull racing game on a very high stack of dull racing games. Buy the mobile version instead.