GripShift Review

GripShift describes itself as a puzzle-platform-driving-action game, which is accurate enough a description at first glance. After all, you are driving a dune buggy-like car on tracks which challenge you to find the finish line without falling over the sides, and occasionally other cars will race you along these tracks while shooting missiles at you. However, crossing many genre boundaries does not necessarily leave you with a game that will be enjoyed by everyone and that’s the case here.

A player tries to keep on the track.
GripShift’s primary mode of play is a series of races in a progression of puzzle-like tracks. It’s not always clear how to reach the finish line and finding your way to the end is part of the challenge, but what makes things really tricky is that the tracks are suspended high in the air and there are no guard rails. Just staying on the tracks as you try to reach the end is a challenge as despite the word “grip” appearing in the title your buggy’s tires have very little grip on the road. Combine this with the game’s unforgiving physics model and you’ll quickly become familiar with the sight of your buggy falling off of the track and tumbling down to the world far below. It’s pretty much at this point that the hope of universal appeal ends…

Each track has three main goals: to finish quickly enough to win a gold medal, to collect all of the gold stars appearing on the track, and to find and collect the hidden GripShift logo. To advance to the next track you simply need to make it to the finish line without falling off of the track, but you’ll need to accomplish the track goals to earn credits to unlock the next series of tracks. In practice the goals are pretty much mutually exclusive of each other, so you’ll need to re-run the tracks focusing on each goal in turn. Grabbing a bronze medal is by far the easiest way to earn credits as collecting all of the stars often involves going airborne or taking alternate routes and backtracking through the course. The logo goal is more often than not obscenely difficult as the logo is often hidden in very hard to reach places, so not only do you have to figure out where it is, you need to get your buggy to it, pick it up, and make sure that you get back to the track and cross the finish line.

The tracks in the game are certainly imaginative, with features such as massive loops, moving platforms, jumps, warp points, and more. There’s definitely some enjoyment in seeing a track for the first time and trying to unlock the secret of how to reach the finish line. However, there are times when this enjoyment will be completely squashed out of you. As mentioned above, simply keeping your car under control when going around turns is a pretty big challenge, but when you combine this with the need to make precision jumps and land on moving platforms things can get frustratingly difficult. When you launch off of jump you are given some control over your buggy – you can even accelerate and decelerate as well as do a little steering while airborne – but moving back and forth between driving a vehicle that feels like a puck on fresh Zambonied ice and one that feels like roller-skating through fresh cement can be pretty taxing. There’s very little room for error here as the tracks are so skinny that you’re constantly falling off the edge and restarting back from the beginning. And the tracks become difficult quite quickly, destroying your gameplaying ego as you are forced to replay a track in the “easy” circuit countless times.


Also reviewed on:
  •  · Xbox 360