The original ModNation Racers on Playstation 3 mixed equal parts Mario Kart with Little Big Planet. We were given free hands-on with great tools that were both fun and easy to use. Unfortunately long loading times and an unbalanced gameplay unbalanced the entire package.
The game never became as successful as Little Big Planet, even if it was an entertaining kart racer that delivered on what it promised. Given how well both Mario and Sonic have transitioned to handhelds with their kart games there is a lot of potential in this edition of ModNation Racers.
Sony San Diego are responsible for bringing Road Trip to the world, and let's start with the positives. Letting you import your tracks from the PS3 game to your PS Vita, and there is no shortage of features. ModNation Racers: Road Trip is all about racing across tight lanes, power-sliding through corners, tackling your opponents off the track and earning stickers that can be used to customise your driver and vehicle.
Sony's answer to Mario Kart then, with a healthy addition of creative tools.
However, the very first time I start the game it becomes obvious that Sony San Diego has had problems, as the menu system offers poorly implemented touch controls. It's a mess of both touch and button presses, with the former either needing strokes too long for the menus, or not registering at all. It's not a great start.
Once out of that and into the courses proper, it gets better. There are a lot of tracks to race on. We're treated to snow covered landscapes, camel ridden deserts, idyllic mountain villages, detailed cities, and temples. There are however, no gyro controls, vehicle control mapped to the left analogue stick, with the right used to hit out at opponents. It works fine as you'd imagine. Everything seems fine until my first race.
The game feels like a rush job. It's made it out for launch, but that appearance has come with a hefty price. The race stutters as soon as there's a few of my opponents in the same place, and if I make the mistake of firing a bomb at that moment, well, it isn't pretty.
At the core gameplay is fun, but after seeing how well Wipeout 2048 manages these things it's hard to not be disappointed. A solid framerate is vital in a racing game, and any irregularities can have devastating effects on your race.
Now you're perhaps thinking that this may be due to online lag. However, that's not an issue in ModNation Racers, as there is no online mode. The developer said that this was because they didn't want to re-use all features, but rather create something different. Lack of online play may not be the end of the world, as you can still race locally or dive in to the rather extensive career mode.
And that takes us to the creative side of things - the track editor. There are lots of options that we recognise from the PS3 game. You can now pinch and zoom with the touch screen, and use the back touch pad to terraform the landscape. You draw the track layout directly on screen and the editor helps out by filling any gaps you may have left. That's all great, but once again the framerate was an issue and at times the game came to a complete standstill.
It's really a shame. The controls are great, the many power ups are fun, and ModNation Racers: Road Trip oozes of a great experience were it not for these technical flaws. Hopefully a patch can solve these issues, but until then it is what it is.
If you can ignore the choppy framerate, and the exaggerated load times and love collecting stuff and customising your kart, then you're find something to enjoy, as this is just what you remember from ModNation Racers on Playstation 3.
Unfortunately there are bumps in the road, and if you're interested in picking this game up you should give it a try first to see how these issues affect your experience. It's far from a disaster, but it's not really the challenger to Mario Kart 7 that we were hoping for.