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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Game Dev Story (Review)

Why are you reading this review instead of playing the game?!

Throughout 2011, I heard about Game Dev Story an awful lot. Professional reviewers were praising the game and apparently it was selling really well on app stores. Well, about half a year after the game’s release on iOS, I decided to dust my iPod Touch off and check the game out.

So, what is Game Dev Story? A very basic summary is that you are in charge of a video game development company (games, staffing, etc.) and must turn it into an industry crushing behemoth! Does this sound fun? Well if you have a fondness for simulation games (think anything by Maxis) or just video game development in general, then this game should definitely appeal to you.

Players start off with a pretty small office to work out of and, right off the bat, your secretary will ask you to hire three employees to get the company started. Potential hirees all come with various silly names that poke fun at the entertainment industry (Donny Jepp, Stephen Jobson, Walt Sidney). These NPCs all have job-specific titles such as coder, producer, writer, and so forth. Each title implies what field the characters excel at. Each hirable NPC also has four main statistics – programming, scenario, graphics, and sound. These four statistics will, ultimately, be the deciding factors in who you hire and who you give passes to. They will determine how good your employees are at designing your games. The programming statistic generally improves overall development of the games and the proposal writing of each game. Scenario affects how creative your games will be, which is vital in the grand scheme of the game. Graphics and sound are, predictably, the graphics and sound of your games.

Players will have to choose which consoles are right to develop for and when.

When you start, employees will have very low statistics. Because of this fact you should not expect your games to succeed very much in the beginning and they will, at best, just cover lost expenses.However, as you gradually make more money off of your stinkers that you release, you’ll be able to level up and train your employees so that they become more skilled. Leveling up is pretty basic and simply uses research points, a sort of currency you earn from simply working on and debugging games. Training is a different story and requires you to spend your company’s actual money. You can choose various activities for your employees to train in, and all will increase at least one of the four statistics possessed by them. Eventually, simply leveling and training your employees becomes less and less beneficial over time and, once they appear to be at their limits without having oodles of cash thrown into training them, you have to command your secretary to bring in a batch of new applicants who are hopeful to work for you. In most cases, you will have to fire an existing employee to hire a new one, but this is rarely a problem since the new employees are usually better except for very late in the game. The only downside to firing long time employees is that you may feel a little sad letting go of an employee that you’ve had working for your company since the start of the game.

In terms of actually making games, there is a fun amount of options here. You get to choose the console to develop for along with the game’s name, genre, and theme. Want to make a cowboy RPG called Space Goons? Feel free to do that! If the RPG genre and cowboy theme are both popular at the time of the game’s development, then Space Goons could easily become a smash hit! As the years go by, the general public will be more partial to certain genres and themes than others. One year they may want action games and the next they might want racing games. It is not essential to give the public what they want because, if your staff is skilled enough, the game will succeed regardless. Still, adhering to the demands of the public will usually always net you at least 25% more in overall sales. You really can’t say no to that, can you?

Winning the coveted grand prize at the Global Game Awards will be high on your list of objectives to fulfill.

Every now and then, new consoles will be announced by companies that parody real life corporations (Senga releases the Exodus, Sonny will unveil the Playstatus, etc.) and you will have to pay handsome licensing fees to develop for these new devices. Since older consoles will eventually become obsolete and stop selling entirely, it is essentially to jump ship to newer and better consoles when you have the funds available to do so.

There are two annual events that are eventually introduced which also parody real life counterparts. GameDex is an annual convention that is clearly Game Dev Story’s version of E3. You can choose how much to spend on your company’s booth and presentation at Game Dex, or you can choose not to go entirely. This will, however, affect your popularity with the fanbase you’ve amassed over time. The second event is the Global Game Awards. This is basically the Oscars, but for games. There are a few categories to win (including the silly “worst game of the year”), but players will ultimately want their games to win the grand prize of the award show which is simply titled “the grand prize.” By winning it, you will be rewarded with a nice one million dollar prize. This is very helpful at the start of the game, but tends to feel pretty miniscule later on. The problem with this is that you are incredibly unlikely to win the grand prize for a few years at least and, when you do, it just isn’t much of a big deal anymore.

In terms of presentation, I have to commend this game for having a very cute look to it that is a breeze to navigate. Graphics are very reminiscent of the 16 bit era and are exceptionally easy on the eyes. Since Game Dev Story is a Japanese developed game, you can of course expect a few colourful and silly looking scenes which should make you smile. The sound of the game is a different story though, and I had to turn the music off within minutes of playing. It truly is horrendous to listen to, and the sound effects are only marginally better.

Fictional magazine reviewers will rate your games upon release and this can drastically affect your sales.

Ignoring the fact that this game has pretty bad music and sound effects, the rest of the package is really incredible. If you like simulation titles, then you will have a lot of trouble putting this game down as you will frequently find yourself saying “I’ll just make one more game, but then I have to get up” only to find yourself making five, six, maybe seven more games before you manage to put your iOS device down! The gameplay truly is addictive, but in a very pleasant way. Is Game Dev Story worth checking out? Without a doubt. Hop to it, folks!

Pros:
+ Amazing replay value with each game being a new experience.
+ Graphics are charming, cute, and simple.
+ Very easy game to pick up and play with no prior experience.

Cons:
– The sound is bad. Really, really bad. Final score isn’t 9+ because of it alone.
– Certain gameplay aspects become pointless over time.
– It’s not available to console and PC gamers!

Final Score

8.6/10

The Sims Medieval (Review)

When I first heard of The Sims Medieval, I dismissed it as another pointless installment in the Sims series that EA was endlessly milking. Originally, I had no idea that this game supposedly boasted all sorts of new gameplay mechanics that drastically set it apart from its older household-themed siblings.

The Sims Medieval is, in short, the most refreshing entry in the Sims series since the original game. It expands upon and introduces many features, though it also seems to take a few steps back which prevents this from being the definitive life simulation game.

When you boot up Sims Medieval, you’re treated to the game’s very well put together presentation. Music sounds like it came straight out of a renaissance fair or cheesy fantasy movie, and the usual bright and happy blue menus from the previous Sims have been replaced with a lot of brown. Surprisingly, the brown actually works. It is a colourful and vibrant sort of brown, ff that even makes sense.

After beginning a new game from the main menu, you get to watch a clever little cinematic that tells you about the kingdom you’ll be inheriting and then, from there, you get to design your king or queen. Creating a sim in this game is exactly as it was in The Sims 3. When I say exactly as it was before, I mean it’s pretty much ripped straight out of the last game. You have your body and face sliders, voice tempo, clothing selections, and character traits. There’s a little bit less customization here than there was in The Sims 3, though. All clothing options are now full body costumes and outfits, so instead of manually choosing your shirt or pants, you are selecting one entire outfit. They can still be recoloured, which is a definite plus.

Feeding your sims is just as important as ever before.

The notable change in the sims editor for Sims Medieval is the traits. No longer do we just choose several personality traits, but rather just two and then a fatal flaw. The traits are what you’d expect to see (friendly, loves outdoors, etc.) but the fatal flaws add a new dimension to character personalities. It is required that all characters have one, and these fatal flaws range from being a chronic drunk to being blood thirsty and always wanting a fight.

When you finish making a monarch sim, you get to check out the kingdom you get to direct. You basically just start off with your castle, but as you progress you will be able to build many other buildings like barracks, a tavern, and even a wizard tower. In order to construct these buildings, you have to take on quests that award points required for developing your budding kingdom. Quests in a Sims game may sound a little awkward at first, but it works surprisingly well here. You cannot play the game without taking on a quest, and you must accept one from a pretty lengthy list before the game lets you control a sim. Quests can be just about anything you can imagine in a medieval setting. One quest has you trying to find a way to remove a bad luck curse from yourself while another has you going into a cave and forming an alliance with a crab monster. They are pretty varied and are often very fun to do.

Standard Sims gameplay from before is of course present. When you take on a quest, you have an infinite amount of time to complete it. If you don’t feel like working on whatever given quest you are on, you can simply lead your sim around and live out their life by eating gross sounding medieval meals, getting absolutely hammered by brewing alcohol, getting into fist fights and duels to the death, and much more. The interaction is the same here as it has always been in Sims games, meaning you are able to form friendships and relationships with other characters, and you will always have to pay close attention to your character’s mood to make sure they stay happy. In the past, we had to keep our sims happy by managing about eight different bars that represented energy, hunger, fun, atmosphere, and much more. There are only two now, energy and hunger. Culling so many of these bars from past games does this game a lot of good, as it was not uncommon to sometimes to feel overwhelmed when your sims were unhappy over several things at once in previous Sims titles. It is now fairly simple to keep sims happy, as all you have to do is make sure they get to eat and sleep.

All hero sims have their own unique abilities. For instance, the spy can poison drinks.

Their mood bar can still dip into the red if you’re not careful, however. Various actions can have a negative impact on your sim’s focus, which is a statistic that governs how your sim feels and how well they perform their duties. The higher a sim’s focus, the more happy and successful they will be. Focus can be increased by making your sims do good things such as bathing, eating, winning a fight, and getting married. Focus will decrease when sims get sick, are hurt from other sims or wild animals, and even when they are locked up in the stocks and bombarded in the face with eggs and tomatoes.

As your kingdom expands and you build new buildings, you will get to create hero sims. The monarch character was the first, but each building you add to your kingdom is managed by one as well. The tavern will grant you a bard sim, the smith gives you a blacksmith, and the cathedral gives you a priestly sim. You get to design each of these characters by yourself and then eventually use them on various quests. There are some quests that are specific to certain hero sims, such as one where the bard aspires to become a better writer so that they can impress people with their plays and poetry. Some quests will have you using two or more hero sims that you have created, which helps you build chemistry between the characters and feel like the sims in the kingdom really are working together to overcome problems.

Each hero sim has their own distinct style of gameplay as well beyond the standard eat, sleep, and have fun. For instance, the monarch sim can willingly arrest anyone without any consequences, the merchant sim can open their shop and sell wares, and the bard sim can play music to earn money and seek inspiration from other sims. Each and every single sim feels very unique once you check out what they can do, and it’s fun to try them all out.

It is worth nothing that you cannot actually construct any buildings in the way that you could design your own homes in previous Sims games. All buildings already have preset designs, it is just up to the player to furnish them and make them look unique. As far as customizing the interior of buildings go, Sims Medieval probably offers us the most options. There are loads of items to purchase, and the amount of options for painting your floors and walls is really impressive. So, while The Sims Medieval isn’t much of a playground for budding architects, I think that aspiring interior decorators will be very happy.

The kingdom map starts small, but players will end up with a very bustling empire.

The graphics in Sims Medieval are probably slightly better than they were in The Sims 3, but that is not saying much. The game has a very silly look to it and graphics junkies should probably look elsewhere if they are only looking to play a game that is very graphically advanced. The graphics in Sims Medieval aren’t top of the line, but they are certainly sufficient. At the very least, they will be an upgrade for Sims 3 players. The sound is also exactly what you would expect from a Sims game. Simlish, the language spoken by Sims, is of course here and is as interesting as ever to listen to. Environmental sounds, as well as those caused by sims going about their daily business, aren’t breaking any boundaries but certainly sound good enough. Keep in mind that the game is presented in a comical fashion, so neither the graphics nor the sound are meant to be realistic.

In the end, I would have to say that The Sims Medieval turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and I’m a little disappointed that it has flown under the radar of just about everyone, since nobody I know seemed to have even heard of this game except for one Sims junkie. This is certainly a Sims game and it should appeal to anyone who liked the previous games, but the added depth from questing and managing a kingdom is probably enough to lure in those who could never get into The Sims before. The medieval setting is also very interesting, and I think that anyone who likes fantasy settings could enjoy this game as well. This is certainly the most original Sims game to come along since the very first one was released eleven years ago.

Final Score

9/10