Table Top Racing is the first game from Playrise Digital, an indie studio founded by WipEout co-creator Nick Burcombe. WipEout, you'll remember, was not only a superbly futuristic hover-racer - It also took that futuristic idea and unified it across its graphic design, visual aesthetic, and music. Each element combined to make a satisfyingly complete experience.
It's a shame, then, that Table Top Racing suffers in comparison. The game's concept pays homage to Micro Machines, but its menus look like any other mobile title's, there's no graphical flair that goes beyond the idea of miniaturisation, and the music sounds like it was found on a free audio database compiled in 1996.
It's not all bad: despite these familiar and disparate elements, there's some chaotic fun to be had in races that also borrow plenty of ideas from the kart racing genre. The 6 event types vary from battles that are more about destroying your opponents with power-ups than racing them, to time trials and hot laps. In the 4 tournaments you'll progress through events to a multi-stage race finale, and there are another 30 or so special events that can be approached individually.
Whichever event you choose, place in the top 3 and you're rewarded with the coins that you'll need to upgrade your car and its tyres. Upgrades are necessary, and you may find yourself having to grind to get them. The alternative is to buy packs of coins, but it's hard to shake the feeling that any game that allows you to progress with real money will have been designed to encourage you to do so. Whether this cynicism is mine or the developer's, it's not a welcome feeling when you're supposed to be having fun.
Back on the track, there are both the touch and tilt controls we now expect from mobile racing games. Without control over braking or accelerating, it's important to follow the racing line, lest you take a dive onto the kitchen floor, or collide with the rather sticky trackside obstacles. Races are almost always tight because of the incredibly elastic rubber-banding; enter a final lap in sixth and you can still easily win, and vice versa. Up to five computer-controlled opponents will do their best to get in your way on the thin tracks, and lack the intelligence to avoid bombs dropped in their path.
There are eight reversible circuits, but only four locations: a kids' playroom, an al fresco barbecue, a Japanese restaurant and a garage workbench. On all of these you're guided through carefully arranged objects, whether toys, tools or T-bone steaks. Each has plenty of sharp corners, but almost nothing in the way of elevation or jumps, so it's not long before the more straightforward races become a series of left and right turns.
It may be stunningly unoriginal, but Table Top Racing still manages to deliver a functional racing game. The short race times lend themselves to the platform and it's at its best when power-ups are fizzing all over the screen. I also have to admit that its in-app purchases aren't the most cynical out there, but that doesn't excuse their implementation. As a new studio's first game, Table Top Racing isn't bad. As a game that shares some of WipEout's DNA, it's a disappointment.
Version tested: iPhone
Played for 3 hours. Code supplied by the developer.