A Bite-Sized Blast
ModNation Racers: Road Trip may not be the biggest game to launch with the Playstation Vita, but it is certainly one of the best. For those who don’t know, Road Trip is a kart racer that emphasizes letting the player create their characters, vehicles, and tracks and share them throughout the community – think LittleBigPlanet meets Mario Kart. The game’s combination of crazy races and mind-blowing customization makes it a game a must-have for any kart-racing fan. Whether you have hours to play through Career Central or five minutes to create a racer, this is a game you’ll keep coming back to.
The best part of Road Trip is the game’s great racing mechanics. It is wacky and chaotic, but never out-of-control. The overall racing structure is simple, but leaves a lot of room for strategy; drifting around corners and airborne tricks fill up your “boost meter”, which can later be used for a burst of speed or a defensive shield. Items can be leveled up (i.e. grabbing two “fireball” items will give you a level 2 firestorm-type attack) or they can be sacrificed to fill a portion of your boost meter. Most tracks have multiple paths to choose from, none of which are necessarily better than the others. These small decisions might not seem like much, but they give Road Trip a feeling of complexity rarely found in kart-racers.
If you are playing by yourself, chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time with Career Central. You will take yourself through 30 crazy stages and find yourself racing through everything from pirate ships to alien invasions. Each track has five extra objectives that will reward you with bonus creation tools if you manage to complete them. These range from ‘taking down five opponents’ to ‘not hitting any walls,’ and will have you coming back to the races time and time again. A big surprise I found in Road Trip was how difficult the game got. I have played my fair share of kart-racers, but I still had a heck-of-a-time getting through the later tours (there is no option to turn down the difficulty.) It is a ballsy move to make a game this tough, but it just goes to show that this is the kart-racer for the hardcore.
One of the big appeals of the ModNation Racers series is obviously the aspect of creation, and Road Trip lives up to the standards set by previous installments. You have literally thousands of items to build your creations with, but the game presents them in a way that doesn’t intimidate beginners. I’m not exactly the artistic type, but I had no problem creating characters like Kratos or Commander Shepard. Track creation has been redesigned to take advantage of the Vita’s touchscreen; you just draw the shape of the track with your finger and can auto-fill the environment. This lets casual players make create quickly and allows them to ignore the littler details while maintaining a professional look. Karts, tracks, and characters can all be uploaded to the network and shared with other players, and creations from the Playstation 3 title, ModNation Racers, can be downloaded as well.
Even though Road Trip has a solid core experience, it is plagued by several small problems. The menus are disorganized and hard to control; they use an awkward combination of touch and button-based controls, and some of the simplest commands are often lost in the mess-of-a-menu. Certain images are unresponsive unless they’re tapped in a very certain way, which can be both frustrating and confusing. Another major issue with the game is the lack of online play. The game still supports leaderboards and local matches, but the lack of network-based races destroys what would have been a massive online community. Even Mario Kart 7 and the PSP version of ModNation Racers (both of which are technically inferior games) support online play, so it seems like an odd decision for Road Trip to leave it out.
Even though Road Trip hit a few bumps along the way, it is still a great game that I recommend any Vita owner picks up. The core experience is exactly what I was looking for in a portable kart-racer and is a game worth coming back to time and time again. Whether you are into the idea limitless creation or you just want to kick back and enjoy some old-school racing, ModNation Racers: Road Trip is a game anybody can enjoy.
Great mechanics, limitless creation and loads of replayability.
Disorganized and unresponsive menus and no online races.