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December 17, 2005
Gripshift - Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
17/11/2005UbisoftSony Online Ent.Sidhe Interactive
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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Getting some massive air!
I'll say this from the start. This is not a racing game. Before receiving my copy for review I was somewhat dismayed that some reviews seemed disappointed that this wasn't a racing game and seemingly scored it lower as a result. I can here you now "It has cars, it has racetracks, what the hell is it then?" The answer is a little complicated. Gripshift is a vehicle based game where you race against the clock, use your skills to get through a series of puzzles or jump large gaps, collect items, and in some events race other vehicles. Developed in New Zealand by Sidhe Interactive (the same people that brought us Rugby League 2 recently) this title not only looks fantastic, but offers something very unique.

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It's the Bonus Game Playground.
Upon starting this game you are asked to create a profile in which you select your driver and vehicle before customising your vehicle with paintjobs, decals and tyres. Each of the cars handles differently and some are more suited to one event then another - fortunately it is possible to change your car between events. Gripshift includes around 100 levels in four themed worlds and is broken up into several different categories. These include a Challenge Mode which includes a series of increasingly difficult challenges to complete (such as collecting all the stars, or beating the clock), a Race Mode which is split up into Single Race, Time Challenge, Championship and Practice, and Bonus Games (more on them later). As you complete events you earn credits which then unlock new events or bonuses such as car enhancements and bonus content.

The cars themselves are a joy to handle - when you get to grips with the game. As you can see in the surrounding screenshots there are sections where you'll get some absolutely massive air. Fortunately you can even steer your car while in the air so you can land on small platforms or bits of land.

Naturally this wouldn't be a PSP game without some Wi-fi action and Gripshift allows up to 4- players to compete in the races and Bonus games. Sadly there's no game sharing but the title is cheap enough that anyone could (or should) own a copy.

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The tracks curve and bend - sharply!
As mentioned earlier Sidhe Interactive has also included Bonus games for a bit of a diversion from the main game modes. These include events such as Playground (where you must collect 99 stars in 20 minutes), or Penguin Bowling (essentially a bowling game with the cars, and very large penguins) and Ice Hockey to name a few. If anything we would have loved to see Sidhe expand on these Bonus games even further. The Bowling game, for example, only consists of 5 frames instead of the regular ten. Still, these Bonus games are tremendous fun and a fantastic diversion when you get frustrated with some of the trick tracks in the main Challenge mode.

Certainly one of the most exciting features of Gripshift is the Track Editor. Before entering this I figured it would be some small gimmick to keep gamers entertained for a few minutes. How wrong I was. Essentially you have the power to build track to every smallest nuance you could desire. In fact it's not hard to believe that this is exactly the same tool that developers used to create the real tracks in the game, it's that powerful. You not only design the track but can place power-ups, obstacles, and islands to jump to. Impressively each track you create only takes up around 200kb.

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The Penguin Bowling looks hilarious.
While a great game, and highly addictive, the difficulty may turn off some gamers. Even in Easy mode some people that tried the game had a very hard time completing the levels sufficiently, but practice pays off and soon enough you'll be using nitros around sharp corners, and jumping massive distances. The track design, while generally good can cause some problems as you hit a crest on the road only to see your car leap into the air and totally miss the right hand corner. Fortunately it is possible to switch to a more top-down camera view to reduce the chances of this happening. Finally while you can unlock new content such as car skins or tyres as you complete challenges when you go to customize your car you can't actually see what is new, so it becomes a test of memory. Perhaps a simple 'New' sign could have been included on unlocked items.

It must be said that Gripshift is a pretty special game to look at, and there's little wonder it was one of the PSP's highlights at the 2005 E3 show. With a rock solid 30fps frame rate, mip-mapping and anti-aliasing it's fair to say that this game is one of the more visually impressive on the PSP to date. The tracks look wonderful with some spectacular backgrounds. I would have actually liked to see some more normal tracks included as well without the drop-offs to either side (perhaps water or quicksand for instance), but in general this is very high quality. Menu presentation is also good, but there is the occasional things (such as the bonus Video Clip) which should have been higher quality as there is heavy artifacting in the video clip.

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Some visuals are simply gorgeous.
Audio in the game is fairly solid overall. The music is from Australian and New Zealand bands and DJ's such as Misfits of Science (chart topping hip hop artists who have provided six tracks plus the theme song for the game), Shapeshifter (NZ drum and bass group based in Melbourne), and Filterbrats (Auckland based DJs). While we found the music a little generic and too 'samey' it's a refreshing change from the numerous games with rock based music. The effects and car engines are quite good as well.

With a cheaper retail price of only $49.95 Gripshift is great value for the budget conscience gamer. Don't for a second think that this is a lesser title due to the lower price. This game offers a neat twist on the numerous racing titles by not actually being one. Quite exciting and a game which we'd love to see Sidhe create a sequel one day in future. Gripshift is a great stocking filler this Christmas.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThe game moves along at a rock steady frame rate and looks great.
SOUNDFairly solid music and effects make this a nice game aurally.
GAMEPLAYIt can be very frustrating at times, but also quite rewarding.
VALUEAt only $49.95 this is great value and will take ages to complete.
OVERALLGripshift is a very entertaining title. It offers something different with vehicles and the game looks quite special when moving. Perhaps with a little more refinement it could have notched up a few more marks, but still remains very solid nonetheless.

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