It seems as though highways have always been a tad on the boring side. Where are all the loops, dinosaurs, whales, black holes and bottomless pits? Luckily, Gripshift solves all of these problems, and even adds a soundtrack to boot.
The controls in Gripshift, an Xbox Live Arcade game, are fairly simple, and the game will gradually guide you through them in the beginning stages. It basically boils down to the accelerate button and the brake button. However, the game has taken this simple idea and let the imagination run wild in a multitude of stages, difficulty levels and game types. You will find yourself flying through the air with the greatest of ease quite frequently, and mid-air control is both simple and camera-friendly. The tracks are wildly varied, and they’re just littered with fans, loops, catapults, speed bursts and tons of other crazy twists.
The “meat and potatoes” of Gripshift lies in the Challenge mode. This mode consists of time trial and collectible grabbing on mind-bending race tracks floating over nothingness. Every level consists of three goals: collecting a bunch of stars, beating the time trial, and finding the ever-elusive Gripshift logo. All the goals don’t have to be beaten in one run, and you’re allowed as many tries as you want. Normally collectibles are as enjoyable as shark wrestling, but Gripshift keeps things fresh and it never feels tedious.
Other modes of play include good old-fashioned Race Mode against three opponents — with the addition of missiles, dynamite and death rays. The transition from Challenge to Race is easy, with the core controls remaining the same and the addition of X and B controlling your firearms. Another mode, Star Race consists of you racing one opponent while also being required to gather all the stars on the track in a specified number of laps. Time Trial is also present, with your only enemy being that unrelenting jerk known as the stopwatch.
Playing all of these modes results in gaining credits, which are your means to accessing new content and multiple unlockables. You’ll acquire new decals, paint, skins and rims for your car, and you can even unlock new cars to slap all that stuff on to. In addition to pimping your ride, you will also unlock new characters to drive your four-wheeled monsters, new songs to listen to while you burn rubber, and new difficulties to keep up with your ever increasing awesomeness.
Yet even Gripshift can’t defy the law “that which goes up must come down.” Even with all of its innovation, there are a few downsides. Multiplayer is the Loch Ness Monster, with online matches being nonexistent and thus any online Achievements basically being unattainable. There are six difficulties, each with tons of tracks, which would normally be a strong point. However, you’ll probably never even play most of these tracks. Just as bad, you’ll earn enough credits for everything long before Hard difficulty, which severely hampers your motivation to keep playing. And the aptly named Evil difficulty? It provides all the frustration with none of the happiness.
Innovative, addicting gameplay launches Gripshift out of mediocrity, but the lack of motivation to play everything, a ghost of a multiplayer mode, the 600-Microsoft-Point price tag and eventual frustration makes the game plummet back to Earth.
- Score: 7.8
— John Dempsey