Created by local lads Sidhe Interactive, Gripshift is a game that has cars and drivers but it isn’t necessarily a racing game. It’s got different platforms to jump to but it’s not a platform game, puzzle elements but isn’t a puzzle game, and tons of action but it isn’t really considered an action game. It’s a mix of all these things with some strange multiplayer kicks on the side that make it one of this year’s more bizarre portable titles, not to mention one of the best.
The goals in Gripshift’s main modes are simple. You have to take your vehicle (four to chose from along with six unique drivers), from point A to point B, completing as many goals as you can. Some may be time-based, like getting from point to point in a certain amount of seconds, some are collection based, in the form of stars or special power-ups that must be acquired in order to complete the level, and some just require you to reach the goal, even though at times it appears damn near impossible. There’s also a race mode where you can challenge the AI to all-out speeding, and multiplayer offers a number of sub-games that are weird yet very cool in their own right. The game starts out simply enough to give you an idea of the gameplay and what to expect from its patterns. But as soon as the difficulty is bumped up to Intermediate you’ll see its madness work against you. It didn’t take long before I was desperately searching for my next leap of faith and sweating in the process. Get to Insane level and, well, good luck. That’s not to say the puzzles can’t be completed because they can, but just make sure you have a tolerance level for falling off the road a lot. There are no guard rails here to guide you past your mistakes, so precision definitely comes into play. Gravity gets a whole new meaning when playing some of these levels.
Gripshift maintains a simplistic yet quirky design that’s in a league all its own and it mostly pays off. The frame rate is silky smooth and the comedic details shine through, even though the general design remains the same. The music (all local artists thanks to Sidhe) and sound effects also hit the right spot. Gripshift is a wonderful surprise and you should pick it up if you like puzzle, driving, action, and/or platform games. Unlike most PSP titles it is not based on a proven franchise - but the gameplay is enough to make it shine.