Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Monday, November 26, 2007

Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights (PSP)

The original Juiced was a flawed racer that was surprisingly innovative in a lot of ways. It was one of my favorite racers. Unfortunately, the sequel goes more mainstream and unfortunately loses what set the game apart.

Gone is the freeform, calendar based gameplay. Now progression though the races is almost entirely linear. And while team racing still exists, it's only for a few events

It also adds a lot of frustration, in the name of drifting. The drifting fad has died down, but it still shows up in games. In the original Juiced, drifting was mostly optional; you only had to do it to increase your rep with one group. In this, you have to do a lot of drifting, and be very good at it to progress in the game.


Instead of having races randomly generated on a calendar, gameplay now consists of a number of preset races you can do at any time. And then there is a checklist of things to do to advance to the next racing class (you start at 8 and work up). Besides winning races, there are things like "spooking" another driver, which is basically means stay behind them for a while. A little bar above their car fills up, then they crash.

The races themselves are all circuit races, doing laps. Gone are the point to point races and drag races of the original. There is a new sort of race in this, one where you get eliminated if you crash into a wall. Those are fun and intense.

There is also more of an emphasis on drifting. In the original Juiced, it was almost optional, in this, you need to win a drift race to advance to the latter half of the game.

The drifting wouldn't be quite so bad, but some are "endurance" races, which are basically where you have to achieve a certain amount of points by doing one non-stop drift. This is quite hard to do.

Drifting is also the one part of the game where which car you use is actually important. Even those pretty much every rear wheel drive car has a "Good for Drifting" logo on it, some cars are much, much better than others. I tried doing a race in one car, and just couldn't do it, then tried another one and almost without trying, won on my first try. Yet they pretty much handled the same. Just one drifted better.

Just going by forum posts here and elsewhere, several people have quit the game in frustration over the drift endurance races, something that is a sign of a poor design. Drifting is tricky in any racing game, but especially on the PSP, which usually features simpler controls. For instance, no analog gas or clutch, which is really a must for proper drifting.

One of the touted features is "Driver DNA", basically the game records how you drive and can make an AI drive like you or anyone else. This could be quite useful if crew racing were handled like in the original Juiced (where an AI team member could race for you), but in this, crews only matter in a handful of races, and you'll be too busy racing yourself to watch how they drive.

Cars, Modding, and Driving

The selection is actually pretty decent. The original Juiced focused more on cars real people could afford, topping out with a Viper and Corvette, but this focuses more on performance cars, going all the way to very expensive exotics, like the almost affordable Saleen S7 to the Messing Hellcat (supposedly the world's fastest production car)

The original Juiced had a weird and very touchy driving model. It was a mix of simulation and arcade, leaning toward simulation, and could be very difficult at times, especially in rear wheel drive cars, you could spin out going around corners easily, or just by hitting a bump in the road.

This has an entirely new driving model, one that is arcade-ish. And no more problems driving rear wheel drive cars, either. It's very easy to drive.

The original Juiced featured relatively realistic performance from cars. That's gone from this, they pretty much all handle and perform alike, except for drift races. There's a little difference, but for the most part, it doesn't matter what car you drive in a given class. This is good because it makes old muscle cars actually useful in races against newer cars, but it detracts from the whole experience, since everything feels almost the same.

Track design was one part of the original Juiced was lacking. The tracks were fairly bland. This has much better track design, with quite a bit of elevation change and offering different routes in some cases (no short cut, but some are better). But many of them feel claustrophobic, there aren't any that really let you go fast - no ovals. There's not a lot of variety, either, 5 different themes based on a country, each with a 2-3 tracks in the region. Most of the tracks are also quite short. (Apparently next gen versions have more tracks, lucky us)


Graphics are one area where they have been improved over the original Juiced. Which had decent graphics, but rather drab looking ones. The graphics in this are much more colorful and vibrant.

On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be any weather, the original occasionally had rain. And there's no damage modeling.

I didn't like the music much in the original Juiced, and don't like the music in this, either, which is just some generic electronic stuff, essentially modern muzak.

The original Juiced featured other drivers who would talk to you during the race if you had bet on them. Taunts and congratulations. This sort of has that, including little pop-ups of the character speaking, but what they say is somewhat muffled and hard to hear. And none of the characters have much in the way of personalities.

This one also features a really annoying announcer who does a play by play of the race. Thankfully you can turn him off. But he's really quite annoying, particularly some of the phrases and slang he uses.

Final Thoughts

I was looking forward to this title, but very disappointed. Maybe it would have been better if I didn't like the original.

Still, even if you ignore the crew aspect being mostly removed (which had been my favorite part of the original), what's left just isn't that much fun. Too linear, too much drifting, especially how a drifting endurance challenge is mandatory in a game to progress to the second half. There's also not much in the way of track variety.

It's also got no personality. Despite the licensing of "Hot Import Nights" and the constant use of that logo all over the place, it feels quite bland, with generic music and unintelligble opponents ("Car 1", "Car 2", etc, the announcer calls them).

You also see pictures of women everywhere on the logos and loading screens, but they are nothing more than a tease. Street Racing Syndicate for the PS2/Xbox let you get a "girlfriend" who would be the starter for your races and you could unlock videos of her "dancing". That last bit was lame, but at least it was some sort of depth.

Even your photo has no personality, just a blacked headshot. Anything would have been better than that. Just picking from a few stock portraits, if they couldn't bother with an avatar system.

The PSP hasn't had many racing titles lately, so you might be tempted. But it's just not worth $40 unless you are really desperate for a racer.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Locales, Volume One (PDF)


Publisher Stock #: TFC001
Author(s): Nick Kristof, Dave Kristof, Brian DiGennaro, Greg DiGennaro
Artist(s): Nick Kristof, Greg DiGennaro, Mike Strane
Pages: 46 File Size: 2.21 MB
Original electronic format

Locales Volume I is the first product from a new company, The Fantasy Cartographic. They apparently don't have a website yet, but they are on

This product is essentially a collection of "geomorphs". Basically an assortment of pre-drawn adventure maps where the gamemaster fills in the numbers and keys to his liking. But whereas the classic "geomorph" provided just maps, this also provides some adventure seeds as well, one primary background for the map and 2 or 3 smaller alternative ones.

It's systemless, being mostly maps, but the background and adventure seeds are fantasy. It seems fairly clearly intended for use with D&D or similar systems (Like C&C or Osric). Besides some of the races mentioned, like dark elfs who live underground, it also has a section that says "Notes for the DM".


It contains nine locations, but two of them are related, and combined take up about half the product. So whether or not you find that location useful goes a long way towards how valuable you'll find this product.

Said location is a giant cavern full of giant pillars, stalatites, and stalagmites. So big that various underworld races could mine them out and live in them. The cavern and one such inhabitated column, meant to be more of a fortress than simply a home (it is a home, but to a warrior like group), is mapped out. 16 levels, plus one sublevel, so it's a fairly big place. Although the middle levels are quite thin.

Another fairly large location, 6 pages worth, is a dungeon (or tomb, according to the background) that folds back in on itself. That is, if you turned turned left and walked forward the same distance 4 times, you wouldn't be back in the same place.

This idea was pretty clever, I thought, somewhat Dr. Whovian, and could really torment players who made their own maps.

The rest of the maps/ideas are only a couple pages each. A keep (actually 4 pages), an elemental temple, 3 types of caverns/lairs, and some old ruins. These are probably all more generally useful for the typical fantasy campaign, especially the keep. Though the keep is also perhaps the one map where a key being provided would have been helpful, since some rooms look like they have a definite purpose in mine just from looking at how they are shown on the map.


It's a clean, clear, easy to read file. No weird fonts, the maps are black on white and printer friendly for the most part (some extended black areas in the cave pillar fortress, to indicate where the rock is). There are some small color photos of the locale in question in the background page of each one, but not on the page you'd actually want to print out, the map of the locale itself. So a nice touch.

I'm not a big PDF person, so I don't keep up on the latest in advanced PDF technology. But this PDF didn't seem to use any bookmarks, which most ones have for quite some time now.

Final Thoughts

I personally have found such things useful. Anyone can draw maps, but often unconsciously they can end up looking alike. I know for some reason all my maps end up looking like a portrait of Ernest Borgnine when viewed from a distance.

The selection is creative and fairly varied, though perhaps 3 cavern style locations is one too many.

On the other hand, I think it would have been nice, since the product is systemless, to be genre-less as well. For instance, including background or adventure seeds for things like horror or science fiction as well as fantasy.

Admittedly, that might clash with the name of the company, but it would broaden its appeal. And many of the maps in this could be used for other genres. For instance, the cavern and its fortress could be some sort of elder race city, like in HPL's The Mountain of Madness or Basil Copper's Great White Space. Or in science fiction, it could be an underground moon or asteroid base or something. This isn't really a criticism, so much as a suggestion.

Value wise, comparing it to some of the other products on RPGNow, it seems like a pretty good deal. Similar maps of a location seem to go for $1 each

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