The classic, carefree vibe of racing along the California coastline returns

User Rating: 8.3 | OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast PSP
Outrun 2006 for the PSP is an updated version of the racing game that was so popular in the arcades in the '80s. Outrun 2006 is truly an arcade racer; the only customizations available for any particular vehicle are the its color and transmission type (automatic or manual). Aside from that, the only challenges are knowing when to accelerate, brake, and powerslide.

One of the appealing aspects of Outrun 2006 is the easy handling of the cars. Learning how to powerslide is considerably easier than it is in many other games. The ability to "steer" during the slide is even better, albeit less realistic. Unfortunately, I found the steering a bit too sensitive on the PSP's small joystick. This is probably a knock against the design of the PSP more than the game itself since this same complaint surfaces in other racing games I've played. Personally, I had as much success steering using the directional keys as I did with the analog stick.

Another nice feature is the wide open spaces that you race between. Sure, there is some recycled content on the tracks, but you won't be racing around the same oval hundreds of times. Each new section brings about a distinct look, and at various forks in the road, you'll be tempted to go in a different direction than in your last race if only to see what new territory lies ahead. The scenery is varied, detailed, and vibrant. It's one of the games biggest selling points.

On the downside, there is a lot of content that needs to be unlocked. Granted, I'm not the greatest player, and I haven't spent dozens of hours with the game yet. (It's a rental.) But I do wish that I could earn points faster. As indicated in the review, there's a lot of content to unlock--cars, tracks, paint colors, etc--and it all "costs." At the slow rate at which I earn points (I've yet to complete a race before running out of time) I'll never get to see most of the content if any of it. I'll probably quit playing in frustration before I get two new cars.

Another problem is the online racing. Getting online and setting up races over Wi-Fi is extremely easy, and the game gives you a plethora of options for your race. The unfortunate news is that this game, which offered few competitors when it was initially released, offers absolutely none now. No matter when I logged on or how long I stayed, I never saw another person to race against. Chalk that up as another disadvantage of not having a unified account for online gaming.

Nonetheless, this is a fun game while you're playing it, and it has two important qualities for a portable game--it's easy to learn, and you can play it in short bursts. This makes it a perfect companion for jaunts around town when you find yourself in a line that 's five minutes long. That's enough time to complete an entire race or challenge event.

At this point, Outrun 2006 can probably be found in your local bargain bin or from an online retailer for $20 or less. This makes it a great purchase for anybody who is a fan of the Outrun franchise or arcade racers in general.