Conventional racing in games like Forza, Gran Turismo, or The Crew brings players closer to the reality of hitting the streets in sleek, modern vehicles. But let’s throw all of that out the window when discussing Caged Element’s GRIP on Nintendo Switch. Like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, GRIP embraces the absurdity of racing in the wildest conditions. Unlike Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this game delivers it’s “wild” approach in its speed and physics. To my surprise, GRIP delivered on many fronts while faltering slightly in others.
Embrace the chaos
GRIP kicks the speed into gear like many other racers never do. Most times, you’ll be moving at 500, 600, and even 700 miles per hour. As the name implies, the speeds help you grip the landscape you are gliding across as racers shift from driving on level ground to burning rubber on walls and ceilings. Winding tracks with wide loops, tubular pathways, and ramps of all kinds dot the race courses as you seek to gain an edge over your opponents. Missiles, shields, boosts, and more are all available as pickups to engage or sabotage your fellow racers.
As you can probably infer from the designs of these vehicles, players can flip their vehicles over and continue driving. This will become a necessary mechanic as you race through some of the more unforgiving portions of these extraplanetary tracks. The speeds of these races are thrilling. But they’re also costly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Making one wrong move can send you careening to a halt or over the edge of the track, causing you to lose ground against your competition.
Stop and start
While the default controls are somewhat intuitive, they may not be entirely comfortable. For instance, the ZR button functions as the gas pedal, but the nearby R button is a trigger for using offensive or defensive pickups. You will have to either let your index finger off the gas pedal for a moment to select items or use a different finger for the gas pedal so that you can tap the R button whenever needed. There are two slots for item pickups. Whenever the one on the left is filled, the second item will fall in the right slot. L is then used for the item on the left, and R is used for the item on the right. Using R while driving with ZR is a bit uncomfortable by design.
However, you can find a control scheme that suits you better in the options. I personally preferred to use control set C, where the B button is used to accelerate and ZL and ZR are to use left and right items respectively.
How deep can you go?
GRIP really shines in its plethora of race tracks and modes. There are many different options from various competitions and tournaments with different elements to a destruction derby-esque mode. GRIP even features a “carkour” mode where you can hone your skills driving up walls, around loops, and off jumps in various obstacle course settings. There’s a lot here for any fan of racing games. For me, the arena modes are a highlight.
One interesting arena-style mode called “Steal the Stash” sees teams stealing loot from their opposition and racing back to their side of the map with it. It’s essentially “capture the flag” with cars. And of course, these modes can be played online. Strangely, this mode, along with another arena mode, are locked from play at the very start. I actually love arena modes and even favor the battle-type competitions in Mario Kart, so it was frustrating that I couldn’t engage in these modes from the beginning.
GRIP surprised even me, one who is often disinterested in the racing genre. The game shines brilliantly in its variation of game modes, challenges, and tracks. The thrill of racing at high speeds can be exhilarating but also frustrating, as the game is largely unforgiving of simple blunders — or those without refined racing reflexes like me. While GRIP isn’t perfect by any means, the game’s change of pace from my standard racing fare in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was welcome and somewhat addicting. For Nintendo Switch owners who are looking for a racing game that differs from the “kart” scene, the low-gravity and speedy thrill of GRIP is the way to go.
A review code was provided by the publisher.