Grand Prix Story (Review)

Last year I reviewed Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story which put you in charge of an upstart video game development team. I loved every minute of it, but when I conquered the game I was left wanting more. Thankfully it wasn’t long after that Kairosoft released another sim game that appeals to me, and that game is Grand Prix Story.

The idea behind Grand Prix Story is simple. You want to become the best racing team there ever was, though you start with absolutely nothing at your disposal and have to slowly crawl your way up the racing world’s ladder in order to achieve any success at all. Basically this is Game Dev Story, but with cars instead of games.

Your task is to hire drivers and mechanics to develop and research new cars and technologies in order to win various races and progress through championships that become progressively harder as you go. Naturally you’ll need money to hire staff, and you’ll be forking over more dough to each of them since every NPC demands a salary. Every development, research item, and upgrade also costs money. This game is essentially a giant vacuum that is sucking your digital money up like Cookie Monster does with cookies. To cover the costs of your endless activities, you’ll pretty much be entering races non-stop.

The best part about the races in this game? You get to watch them! This far exceeds having the race simulated and then being told what the results are. Qualifying laps for races are unfortunately simulated, but they are pretty representative of the quality of both your car and driver. If you have a good combination with adequate stats, then you should qualify on pole or near it. The times you will see in qualifying seem to be completely random though! Pole sitters may manage thirty second lap times on tracks that normally take upwards of fifty seconds to complete a lap of. To make things even stranger, the qualifying times are never close. The driver on pole may set a time of forty five seconds while the guy starting in eighth may have set a time that’s a full minute behind. On such short tracks, it feels a little odd to see these numbers. It’s not too big of an issue in races though, because the actual racing is always very close.

So what do you use prize money for in this game? First, there is hiring drivers and mechanics. You’ll be deciding who to hire based on their attributes. Higher numbers are obviously better, so you’ll want to hire the best people you can find. Half the fun in hiring drivers is in their names. They are mostly all parodies of real life drivers (mostly Formula 1). After playing for a little while, I was fielding two drivers named Kimi Kone and Mike Shoe. Anyone who has paid any attention to Formula 1 will know which two drivers are being parodied with those names! It’s quite funny to see that Kairosoft tried to capture their appearances in sprite-form here, as Mike Shoe very clearly looks like a little pixelated Michael Schumacher.

After you hire your staff, you can periodically train them by having them go jogging, reading, or even joyriding. Each activity costs a small sum of money and will increase the stats of your staff member peforming the training. Note that if you train a staff member too much in a short period of time, you’ll deplete their energy and leave them performing inadequately until their energy bar recharges.

R&D is where you’ll sink most of your money. Researching new cars (and then building them) can put a serious dent in your team’s wallet, but the results usually pay off if you have competent staff members working on your projects. When you’re not racing, researching and upgrading will be taking up all of your time. As if reseearching and upgrading cars wasn’t enough, you’re also responsible for doing the same with individual car parts such as engines, tires, and other performance enhancing parts. It then costs money to outfit your cars with researched and upgraded parts.

When you’re first starting out, this game will suck you dry. I wasn’t even playing for ten minutes before I was given “extra funds from a bank account” or something of the sort, because apparently my assistant was terrified that I was going to run the team into the ground despite the fact that I didn’t feel like such a thing would happen, nor did it ever occur. Grand Prix Story will turn you into a poverty-striken team boss for the first hour or so but, after that, you’ll find yourself comfortably staying afloat with ease. As was the case with Game Dev Story, you will reach a point in the game where you simply start dominating and become unstoppable. However, unlike in Game Dev Story, that point is harder tor each in Grand Prix Story due to all of the various car parts and pieces that you have to micromanage alongside taking care of your staff members. As far as depth goes, there’s definitely a lot more of it here than there was in Game Dev Story. There’s really no comparison, though I do miss the fun process of making games in Game Dev Story. Developing cars is fun here in Grand Prix Story, but it’s not as entertaining. However, the racing sequences are far better than Game Dev Story’s equivalent, which was simply reviewers awarding scores to your games.

Graphics are typical Kairosoft fare. There’s nothing truly spectacular looking as all graphics are 2D backgrounds and sprites. Still, Kairosoft’s graphics always have a really charming personality to them and Grand Prix Story’s visuals are no different. The appearances of some of the staff members made me crack a smile (Mike Shoe especially), and some of the cars look really interesting. It’s also fun watching your crews working busily in the team garage.

Sound isn’t stellar, but it is a definite step up from what I had to endure in Game Dev Story which had pretty subpar music and sound effects. Grand Prix Story doesn’t exactly have good music or sound effects, but they’re still somewhat endearing and enjoyable. I wouldn’t say that they’re grating or repetitive, but you’re also not missing anything by turning your volume down.

Grand Prix Story is definitely worth checking out if you’re into Kairosoft’s sim games or like racing management games in general. This game isn’t nearly as deep as the more serious management sims out there, but it’s still a lot of fun when you want to manage a racing team on the go.

Final Score

8.5/10

Pros:
+ Graphics are charming, cute and simple. It’s hard not to like them.
+ Immense amount of R&D will always give you something to work on.
+ Races are fun to watch, especially when they’re close.

Cons:
– Not as much customization as there was in Game Dev Story.
– Music and sound aren’t worth writing home about.
– Questionable times in qualifying sessions will puzzle most players.

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