Grand Prix Story

Grand Prix Story
Grand Prix Story Cover
Platforms Android
Genre Engaging simulation
Score 9  Clock score of 9

Kairosoft has quickly become my favorite developer on mobile platforms. With the English release of Game Dev Story last year, Kairosoft has placed themselves as the premier simulation creator on iOS and Android. Game Dev Story was followed up by the SimCity-esque Hot Springs Story, and then Android received the exclusive Grand Prix Story a few months back (Pocket Academy, a high school simulation was released exclusively for iPhone and iPad).

Kairosoft has been a very active developer the last few years in Japan, with over 20 releases, including already released sequels to some of their English titles. Their lineup of games ranges from the ordinary to bizarre to simply inspired, with Game Dev Story serving as a catalyst for new markets.

I reviewed Hot Springs Story a few weeks ago, and quite enjoyed both the similarities and differences it had to Game Dev Story. From the games released outside of Japan, there appears to be two types of gameplay: the straight up numbers game like Game Dev Story, and the Hot Springs style layout designer/builder. Grand Prix Story falls under the former, Pocket Academy under the latter. Here's my review of Grand Prix Story for Android, played on an EVO 4G. I hope to have a Pocket Academy review soon.

I'm a numerical guy, I like seeing numbers, algorithms, and formulas. I like to know that when I enchant my sword with +5 Vorpal it will have a 5% chance of chopping the guy's head off, or that putting a point in dexterity will allow me to do more damage with my dual-wielding rogue. But I also like an appropriate amount of behind-the-scenes magic, and sometimes numbers just don't always translate beautifully into something physical.

Take race cars. There's a ton of engineering behind each and every one, particularly Formula 1 racers. Companies like Ferrari will spend hundreds of man hours and millions of dollars to make a critical piece of equipment run just percentage points faster or more efficient. But in the end, no matter how many feats of engineering you cram onto four wheels, there's still a human sitting there behind the wheel, ready to crash it into the wall.

Grand Prix Story does an incredible job combining lots of numbers with behind-the-scenes magic. People fell in love with Game Dev Story because it let gamers combine crazy genres, pump in +200 Graphics artists, and perfectly time a Christmas release to make their dream games and watch a bar graph of their sales. Grand Prix Story takes a big jump over that by letting gamers build race cars, pump in +200 Tech engineers, and perfectly time a V12 engine installation, with it all topped off by WATCHING the actual race take place.

Grand Prix Story car Racing

Yes, this is still a simulation, you don't actually drive the cars, but it's a simulation with the ultimate kind of feedback: visual, behind-the-scenes magic. It's great to know that adding +50 speed to your car will make it go faster, but to actually see it go faster while leaving your competition in the dust is a rewarding experience. There's no question whether your improvements are doing anything, it's all right there in front of you in non-numerical glory.

Grand Prix Story ShopBut obviously everything is still based on numbers and formulas, and they arrive in droves. Cars are made up of a vehicle (buggy, drag racer, supercar) and drive type. Each of these has base stats and certain performance on different types of roads (pavement, dirt, and ice). Then you have to pick the team that is going to assemble the car, and their technology stat plus aura status affects the car's base speed, handling, and acceleration stats. Finally, you can increase a car type's speed, handling, acceleration, or durability stats, too.

Then you can install parts: V12 engines will add a ton of speed and acceleration, different tire types will affect handling and road type bonuses, and there's also a variety of random items such as gears, oils, and computers that boost stats in a variety of categories. Your engineers' tech stats will also affect these part installations.

You also need a driver to race, and they come packaged with six stats, three of which directly affect their driving abilities: pedal, shift, and steer. These can be increased by putting them through training (just like in Game Dev Story), and then these correlate into bigger randomized bonuses when the race actually starts. These stats combined with your car's stats determine the race time values, and your car is ready to roll.

All of this might seem intimidating, but it's really not. You always want the stats to go up, and there's essentially no way for them to go down, so it's all about managing which should go up first. That's the intimidating part, do you put your driver's energy into boosting their racing stats, or their tech stats so they can help the engineers more efficiently? It's a wonderful balancing act that quickly grows second nature as the game progresses.

There's also Research Data points that can be spent on research (you need to research a part before you can install it) or upgrading a car type's stats or individual installable items. If you want to make all supercars you create go faster, you can put a lot of research points into the supercar speed stat. If you want unlock the V8 engine, you need to spend research points on upgrading the V6. It's another balancing act, so little research points, so much to spend them on.

Furthermore, there are sponsors to satisfy to fund your main source of income. Every sponsor comes with a bar that will go up every six months as they evaluate your relationship, and when that reaches max, you’ll get a gift. Sometimes it’s just a load of research points, but it can also be a new training method or even new parts. Just another way Kairosoft manages to constantly dole out rewards and keep you hooked. Just one more race...

Grand Prix Story’s only issues lie in its untapped potential and opportunity. I was expecting at least another set of grand prix races at the end, and the bonus, difficult tracks can be easily conquered. One annoying aspect is that most of the races in the last grand prix can’t be attempted as a single race, forcing you to go through with the entire grand prix to see how well your current car and driver fare.

Many of the bonuses are also rewarded at odd times. The final sponsorships are completed well after the last real race has been run and give you head-scratching rewards like cars that attract more sponsors, and this is after you have appealed to them all. Basically, the game needed a bit more end game tuning.

There also seems to be a bug with how pre-race bonuses are calculated on off-road and icy tracks, as my drivers will perform in the middle of the road during the qualifying, and then race incredibly well on the actual track. Odd stuff.

My one final complaint is that two driving teams isn’t enough, I really wish I could have managed at least three or four, especially late in the game when I’m flushed with cash and research.

Overall: 9

Grand Prix Story GarageGrand Prix Story is an excellent game, the pixel art is great, and the concept of building cars, maintaining drivers, and managing sponsor relationships is original and a blast. This is easily the best mobile game I have ever played, it’s just too bad it’s for Android users only, would love to see iPad and iPhone users give this gem a try, too.

Year 13 totals

  • Team name: Top Gear
  • Funds: $73,765
  • Research Data: 634 points
  • Races Won: 13 types
  • GPs Won: 3 types
  • Vehicle Types: 6
  • Parts: 23
  • Upgrades: 139
  • Sponsors: 15
  • Total Advertising: 8245 points
  • Total: 282,928 points