Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Glorace: Phantastic Carnival (PSP)

There's not much love in the world for the PSP, outside of a few games, and there's good reasons for that: it was uncomfortable to hold, the d-pad was garbage, and people mostly only bought it for either emulation or Monster Hunter. Sony did seem to be putting some effort in getting it to take off (unlike the PS Vita, which they've barely bothered with, and which would be pretty much dead by now if it weren't for anime and RPG fans. which is a shame, because for me, it might well be tied with the original DS for the title of "best handheld ever"), even going so far as to make games for audiences outside of the "big three" markets of North America, Europe and Japan. Last time I wrote about a PSP game on this blog, it was Chandragupta, a game made especially for the Indian market. This time, it's Glorace, a game made (and only released in) Korea.

It's a cute racing game, where you play as a kid who rides around on the backs of weird monsters, racing against other, riderless weird monsters on tracks that look like amazingly colourful fairy-kei dreams come to life. The tracks are pretty amazing in their layout as well as their visual design: some of them are double-sided, and a lap will see you riding across both the top and bottom of the road, as well as slightly Sonicesque loops. Other stages have pitfalls, not only from falling off the side of the track, but also through holes in the track, and by failing to get about moving platforms at certain points.

You've probably made the assumption that mechanically,  Glorace skews closer to Mario Kart than it does Gran Turismo, and you'd be right. There's a bunch of less-than-realistic additions to your tactical options, though they are handled a little differently than in the typical licensed MK knock-off. Firstly, you start off with three boosts that you can use at any time. There's also power ups on the track, though you don't get to store them like you'd expect. Instead, after you pick up the power up, you have a couple of seconds to activate it by pressing the left shoulder button or risk losing it. I don't know why they did that instead of just having them be activated on collection. Another way the power ups differ from the norm is that none of them are the typical projectiles, but rather weird state-changing magic spells. There's a shield, which stops you from slowing down when you bump into walls, obstacles or other racers, there's snow, which puts a white filter over your opponents' screens, very slightly obscuring their vision and there's quake, which causes a mild tremor, slowing down all your opponents for a few seconds.

There's a story mode and a race mode, which covers single races in both single- and multi-player. The big problem is that you can only (as far as I can tell) unlock tracks in race mode by completing them in story mode. This is only really a problem because the fifth track (and presumably the ones that come after it) add mission objectives besides "end the race in the top three". Maybe these missions are pretty simple, and easy to execute, but unfortunately, they're all in Korean, so I don't know what they are. It's a shame, because most of the game's other functional text, from menus to power up names is in English, otherwise leaving just cutscenes and flavour text in Korean. (The cutscenes, for what its worth, are very nicely presented, though, being made up of very nice storybook-style illustrations. I stilled skipped them all mercilessly, though, obviously.)

Glorace is a very charming game, and has some of the best-looking 3D graphics on the system. It's also decent fun to play, though it's nothing earth-shattering or life-changing. If you're curious, it wouldn't hurt to give it a go, and if you do, and you figure out any of the later mission objectives, please tell me what they are.

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