If it’s unusual for a games company to release an eponymous game, it must be unheard of for them to continue the series under their label’s moniker. Whether this shows a confidence in the Juiced series and hopes to raise the profile of the overall Juice Games brand, or smacks of desperation on the part of the developer to establish the game as an ongoing franchise, remains to be seen. Either way, Juiced has an uphill struggle on its hands. Not only is it entering an already crowded car-customisation marketplace, but it has some triple A titles with associated budgets to compete with.
In case you’ve not been following the back-story very closely, this particular racing genre was a response to The Fast and the Furious in cinemas some years ago. This film could easily be attributed as starting the car modification street racing craze that is the bane of many a seaside town. The movie’s superb art direction and compelling visuals captured the imaginations of a large chunk of the up and coming car owners in the younger generation. This in turn resulted in a number of copy-cat films and, more interestingly for us, sparked a new genre of driving video game. These games focus as much on the look and aesthetic of the cars as on the driving experience itself. They look to capture the grass roots feel from the movie that represented something bubbling up from the streets. As such they are usually set at night, and involve their fare share of questionable characters and scantily clad accomplices.
The last five years have seen the number of games in this area swell, this includes EA’s Need for Speed series not to mention a Fast and Furious movie tie in game. With new and more powerful consoles EA’s series is seeing an unprecedented level of customisation that not affects not only the look but also the performance of the cars on the track. With this year’s Need for Speed soon to be released, it will be telling how Juice Games have managed to up their game if they hope to hold onto a portion of this very competitive market.
So, to the game in hand. Anyone who has played the previous game in the series will already be familiar with the setup. Even if you haven’t there is nothing particularly groundbreaking here. Compared to last year the game has had some minor improvements that achieve their aim of streamlining the experience. The driving experience is again split between racing and drifting modes, each with its own distinctive handling mechanic. We have never been all that taken by this approach, preferring to get to know and wrestle with one driving model, rather than having the rug pulled from under our feet each time we stepped into a different race mode.
This time out, the steering controls are less twitchy in the race mode, which goes a long way to improving the overall driving experience. This can’t completely compensate fro the lack of a true analogue stick on the PSP, but at least it enables you to use the nub with more success. This new tighter steering mechanic does however seem to contradict the games desire to see you drifting around every bend in the course. Although you need to achieve these drifts to recharge your boost, the tighter steering controls make achieving this almost impossible. It seems that they missed an opportunity to update the game structure itself in such a way that would complement their new driving style. A minor point maybe, but quite a telling one.