I have to admit that, when the lists of PlayStation Minis games available for review are sent round the Brash Games staff, I’m not always totally au fait with the subject matter of many of the titles. This means that much of the art of selecting one to run the rule over comes down purely to the appeal, or lack thereof, of their respective names.
With some games, there’s an air of mystery surrounding the title that hints at a range of exciting possibilities. For example, could Card Shark (which appeared on the latest review list) be a cartoony little RPG about the adventures of a cardboard Great White – a sub-aqua Super Paper Mario? Or, perhaps it might be a strategy game, à la Sid Myers Railroad Tycoon, set in the brutal, adrenaline fuelled world of the greetings card industry.
Other games, however, go for a name that acts as a helpful précis that makes their intentions much easier to decipher. Such is the case with Monochrome Racing, which, as any idiot could surmise, is a 2D, top-down racing game where almost all colour has deliberately been removed. Think playing Micro Machines on your Grandparents’ old black and white TV and you’re getting pretty close.
You begin by selecting a character from a limited bunch of automotive wastrels who all look like Mad Max cosplayers, before being handed a wad of cash to purchase a vehicle and customise various bits of it with aggressive looking adornments. In no time at all, you’ve got something that looks like the kind of run around Ming the Merciless would pop down the shops in and you’re ready to head out onto the track.
While the way developers Nordcurrent have dispensed with virtually all of the spectrum to give Monochrome Racing it’s stark black and white visual motif, it’s the flashes of colour that remain that are the game’s most interesting feature. At the beginning of a race, the four cars involved are distinguished from one another by each being saturated in their own, unique colour (red, blue, yellow or green). That colour represents the lifeblood of the vehicle and, as you drive, it bleeds away, with the only way to stop it being to hit the coloured checkpoints on the course and prevent your race finishing in a monochromatic death.
It’s a novel, if not wholly original, central gameplay mechanic, and one Monochrome Racing adds further depth to with cash prizes that can be used to upgrade your vehicle to make it faster and more resilient, and the chance to deploy slightly underhand measures like the dropping of bombs.
All told then, Monochrome Racing has all the components to be a surprisingly eye-catching, exciting and involving PlayStation Mini. Unfortunately, however, all that potential goes unrealised thanks to the decision to ‘borrow’ another feature from Micro Machines; the one where vehicles that slip so far behind the leader they disappear off the screen are automatically eliminated from the race.
The problem is that the cars are so quick, and the portion of the track displayed so small that events rarely last longer than 10 seconds. Never mind completing a race, you probably won’t even complete a lap. So brief, so fleeting is the action that rather than providing the perfect ‘bite sized’ gameplay a Mini is meant to, Monochrome Racing instead leaves you scrabbling around for crumbs of consolation. Instead of being the tense, combat racing fights for survival they’re supposed to, each event becomes like a drag race in a rally car, as you fight to keep your squirming vehicle heading in the right direction and away from your, frankly, stupid AI opponents.
So there you have it, Monochrome Racing is rather like going to a restaurant that offers small portions, many course (over 80 in fact) but you never get to finish any of them, as each one is whipped away from you just as you’re taking your first bite. There’s probably a decent game here, but it’s one you’re blocked from ever experiencing by a single, simple design choice. One that drains Monochrome Racing of all its colour.
Oh, and Card Shark. Turns out it’s a range of casino card games. But then, of course, you guessed that just from the name.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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