We hate moaning about how they've "failed to build on the success of last years game". Or how "this year's version feels like a cheap cash in". Or even how "by introducing the new [insert preposterous new control system here] they've actually made the game worse". Those are scenarios that crop up a lot these days for us. Well prepare to journey to a new galaxy of moan scenarios: what we have here is a sequel that - and we can hardly believe what we're typing here - is exactly the same as the last game. We're not talking about the two games both involving driving cars quickly round corners. We're talking about the same menus, the same races and the same looks and sounds. Indeed, if it wasn't for the slightly different intro (which seems as if it were created in the same afternoon as the first) you'd swear you'd slung in the old game by mistake.
Don't get us wrong, Ridge Racer 1 and 2 (it doesn't matter which we're talking about here as they're identical, remember) are pretty much PSP's best racing game(s). It's a 100% dynamite arcade-style racing game. The cars handle like butter-smeared rockets and the tracks are unreal, utopian clashes of mountain, city and beach that make TOCA and McRae feel like two weeks in Bognor with a Haynes manual. That said, if you bought Ridge 2 and owned Ridge 1 we guarantee you'd take it back to the shop the same afternoon.
RACE FOR THE PRIZE
You pick a (totally made-up) car, drive an ever-expanding series of races and unlock your way towards the world's end. Then you do it all again on the next difficulty level up. It's a game that perfectly suits the dive-in-dive-out nature of PSP. Play a single race (as part of a longer three race tournament) and have a break, or lock yourself in a dark room (or bus or plane or train) and while away hours battling your way to poll position. It's fast, it looks great, it's easily mastered and endless fun. It's typical Ridge Racer, in other words. That Ridge 2 picks and chooses the best tracks from the previous Ridge games makes each race a walk in nostalgiaville. The first ever Ridge Racer track is onin there (yes, Ridge in arcades and on PSone only featured one real track) and it's an honour and a pleasure to be driving down the sun bleached mountain passes of Ridge 4's Diablo Canyon Road again. And this time around you've got the game's nitro feature to pep things up. Powerslides fill up a meter which you can choose to unleash for an extra race-winning power boost. Choosing to skid and slide certain corners in order to amass boost for the straight up ahead gives the game a brilliant tactical edge. And timing the use of the boost (should you let a stage one boost go now or build it up for a ultra-powerful three stage blast) is a nail-biting game of chicken in itself.
But let's not get blinded by delight here. Everything we've described above is in the first game which - chances are - you own already. What Sony want you pay for here are three new play options, some new cars and some new tracks - though after having played the game for a week we're not sure if we've unearthed any. Word to game developers: If you are going to make a game that's 90% the same as the last one, at least put the new stuff at the front. And make it sufficiently different to the old stuff so that you can actually feel the benefit. New stuff? Really?
ONE FOR THE MODE
The three new options (effectively doubling the number of game modes to six) are Arcade, Duel and Survival, joining the (too) familiar World Tour, Time Attack and Wireless Battle modes. Arcade mode lets you quickly dive into a bevy of tracks from Ridge, Ridge Revolution, Rave Racer, Rage Racer, R4 and R5 - something definitely lacking from the first game and a neat (easy to add) bonus for real Ridge fans. Battle mode is a quick and easy one-on one race that's ideal while you're waiting for the train. (Though the vacuous, rewardfree winning experience makes it a bit pointless.) And Survival has you racing against three other cars, with the last car each lap being given the elbow - smart, but no more exciting than a 'proper' race. Anything else new is hidden so deeply as to be invisible to all without a direct side by side comparison with the first game.