PSP Review: GripShift

There's a key problem with developer SIDHE's GripShift for the PSP. It's a lot of things, and this combination is initially a turn off. Combat racing coupled with platforming doesn't sound like a blend that ever should have been attempted. The key here is to understand that this is not a driving, racing, or combat game. It's actually a clever puzzle title with a unique concept unlike anything we've seen previous.

Possibly the only way to describe GripShift is to imagine Super Monkey Ball with cars. The variety of challenges involve finishing first against opposing vehicles, collecting stars littered about the track, making risky jumps, and taking corners with precision that should be possible with the PSPs analog stick. The first time the player takes a turn, they'll fly right off the track. The idea is to be careful, not necessarily fast.

It's a tough turn off, and one you'll have trouble grasping unless you give it time. GripShift is trying to be a lot of things. It doesn't always succeed. Each short level (a minute at the most usually) presents a unique design to test every ounce of gaming dexterity you've accumulated over the years. That lends this the mark of "controller tosser." When you're controller is $250, maybe GripShift landed on the wrong console.

These levels, along with ones you can create yourself, fall into various difficulties. To unlock more, you'll need to earn medals by performing the multitude of pre-set goals. These tasks push the player as far as the gamer will allow. There's a lot of platforming in this pseudo-racing game. The controls are constructed wonderfully, allowing for control once in the air just as if you were on the ground. This lets you glide across levels to multiple different exists, the most difficult offering up more medals.

This leads to tremendous replay value, assuming your PSP is still in a single piece and in your hands. Medals can be spent to beef up the cars, order new parts, or unlock the game's best feature: mini-games. They're simple enough that two words will help it all make sense: Penguin. Bowling.

Their could be a group of 10 penguins on the cover of this case, the indication you'll be pushing them off a cliff with a car, and it likely would have sold better. That doesn't even begin to cover Bomb Pool that creates multi-player skirmishes worth the price alone (though no infrastructure mode sadly). It's the "Super Monkey Ball Syndrome" all over again. The mini-games are more entertaining than the main quest, and you'll be playing the latter only to see more of the crazy side games.

It's impossible to say that GripShift is a great game. It's going to draw a sharp line between those who have played it, and those who actually understand it. It's a sad case of becoming accustomed to the usual, and expecting nothing that goes outside those lines. GripShift has no problem with what it is. If you understand that, like to bowl penguins down with a car, and if you're patience level is high, you're the market for this unique PSP title.

(**** out of *****)

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