Disclaimer: if I grew up in a time where those remote-controlled racing tables with the circular tracks were popular, I’d probably love them. Call me crazy but there’s something awesome about the simplicity. You can’t slide around curves, or cat-and-mouse your way around opponents. You have to focus, take the turns at an appropriate speed and best your cohorts with patience and will. So needless to say, when I dug in to start reviewing GP Racing Pro (essentially the Android equivalent of those classic toys), I was pretty amped. And later, I was equally disappointed.
Don’t let the “racing game” category fool you. This is really nothing like a racing game—at least none that I’ve grown familiar with. Like, at all. The strategic layout is simple: you control a car from a bird’s-eye view, turning it right or left to squeak around turns, without any control over your throttle—with, of course, the exception of a boost option (more on that later). The races are set up in a pretty forgiving, tournament-style format. First you’re given one practice run (which you can skip). Then you complete a “qualifier” run. Then based on your prowess, you start the actually race either in the middle of the pack, at the front or (God forbid) at the end.
Of course, there are plenty of races to complete, and there are some “career” aspects to the game. But to me, those really aren’t the point. This is more of a flash game than an all-out race, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The simplicity is what drove me to play it. I’d be on the subway or avoiding some article I was supposed to be writing and I’d fire up a game and complete a race.
But now it’s time for disclaimer number 2. I’m really bad at this game. In general as far as gamers go, I’d put myself right in the middle of the field. I can keep up with old college roommates, but I am nowhere near “play online” status in almost any genre. And that’s ok. But when I bring up a game like this and find myself fairly abysmal, almost all the time, I start to question the playability of the game. After all, it’s a simple mobile title. The learning curve shouldn’t be as unforgiving as, say, the Asphalt series.
And when you look for something to blame, you needn’t look any further than the responsiveness of the controls and the fundamental perspective with which you’re expected to drive you car. Most games give you the option to drive from the passenger perspective, or an “over the shoulder” view. This game is 100% aerial. And with hairpin turns in either direction, looping around a track, at some point you start to forget which way is left and which way is right. Because “left” and “right” turns are all oriented from the car’s perspective, not from your aerial view. If you’re confused by my description, then you aren’t alone. I’ve completed a ton of races in this game, and I still get my lefts mixed up with my rights.
And then there’s the boost. Ohhh the boost. You’d think that with an option to speed up, you could redeem a particularly poor race and make up time in the final laps—zipping around opponents to a photo finish. But the boost offered nothing more than a frustrating means of losing further control of the vehicle. If you take one wrong turn in this game, it’s very, very hard to get back in the race. And if you try to boost your way back in, you’ll almost surely miss the next turn and fall further behind.
So you might be asking, “Well Jay, don’t you just need some more practice?” Normally I’d agree with you. I’m not one to throw in the towel. But I was simply at a loss with this game. The controls were tough to wrap my head around and even tougher to execute. The overarching draw of the title (posting better times and graduating to new tournaments) was overshadowed by the fact that almost every tournament was the same thing.
The bottom line, for me, is that this game takes the simplicity of a quick-and-dirty mobile title and throws pick-me-up gamers right out the window and in the end doesn’t have either the technical graphical of depth of play to justify its hardcore demands. You simply can’t log 15 minutes in this game and then put it away. And even if you log hours, I contend that it would be tough to succeed in the way the game expects you to. It’s really a lose-lose. Even the 2D graphics don’t give me much to rave about. I went into this game with grand expectations, but ended up with a stuttering, go-kart style experience. I’ll stick with a more traditional racing title next time.
A simple, bird’s-eye racer with little variation and even less room for error.