Japanese developer Kairosoft seems to be the king of the mobile simulation genre, having pumped out three English titles (Game Dev Story, Hot Springs Story and now Grand Prix Story) which manage to be addicting as hell while benefitting from the touch controls of a smartphone. In their games, you're put in the shoes of a business owner who is looking to both make money and rise to the top of his/her chosen profession.
Along the way, you can customize everything from the staff you hire to the products you put out; going into each individual thing you can customize would lengthen this article by a couple thousand words, at the minimum. In short, there's enough customization to let you play your own way, but not so many options that day-to-day management of the company becomes tedious and cumbersome.
Grand Prix Story is no different. In the game, you take the role of a motorsport team manager looking to rake in cash and move around different divisions, dominating as you go. Starting off with a meager budget and car selection, you progress to improve your car and rely on sponsors for much-needed cash infusions.
From there, you can enter your car into different races, which are held in different regions of the world. Winning gives you cash and unlocks more races; races can be repeated as many times as necessary. Eventually, you'll unlock different types of cars, which can be researched and upgraded further with different parts.
Each car performs differently depending on your driver's stats as well as the road on which the race is held. Cars are upgraded using "research data," a non-cash currency that can be earned by running races and scrapping old cars.
As I said, this game can get pretty deep.
Prior Issues Fixed
Kariosoft really impressed me with their first Android offering, Game Dev Story. I sunk a pretty large amount of time into that title, though one of my complaints was that its endgame was too easy. Money and research points became trivial, and at a certain point I was only playing to try to get four perfect "10" reviews, which were determined at random.
Grand Prix Story fixes some of these problems, as the difficulty has been ramped up. You have no goals as to how fast you have to achieve your dominance of the racing world, which is great - this isn't the type of game where you're going to be winning races on your first try.
Instead, Grand Prix gives you incentives to run races you know you won't win in the form of research data for successfully completing turns or bypassing other drivers. These rewards diminish if you successfully win a race to discourage farming.
This "reward for trying" mechanic is cool because it makes you think that your drivers are actually learning why they're on the track. Instead of being a completely statistic-based system, Grand Prix gives you the impression that they're actual characters. While this might seem minor in a simulation game, I'd like to think my drivers have some personality and act differently than others I could hire.
The fact that you can actually watch races is also a welcome addition - having a "manager" type game where the games are all simulated takes a bit of fun out of things. I was really impressed with the way that Kairosoft stepped up their development to allow this to occur, as the tracks, racers, mechanics, and action are all done remarkably well.
Really, if there were any complaints about this game, they'd be that in spite of new mechanics like races, a large amount of the things are carried over from the prior games. While this is because these mechanics work, it might be a little disappointing for those of us who have played the other games and are looking for something new and fresh.
What I'm really worried about is that Kariosoft will just keep throwing new coats of paint on their engine with smaller and smaller changes from the previous games. When a "______ Story" game comes out and can be a certified re-hash, it will be a dark day for simulation gaming.
But in the meantime, Grand Prix Story delivers a solid simulation title to everyone, regardless of their position on motorsports. Urging your racers to first place is a genuinely fun experience, and cursing the fates when a CPU beats you by 00.01 fraction of a second is also enjoyable, if a little maddening.
While Grand Prix Story doesn't have a lite version, Game Dev Story does; of course, this isn't exactly the same experience, but it should get you acquainted with the game's mechanics. From there, you can make a choice whether this title is right for you.