From Japanese developer Kairosoft, creator of Game Dev Story, comes another surprisingly deep simulation game for the mobile market. Grand Prix Story (also available for iOS devices) drops you in the shoes of a business owner trying to make it big in the world of grand prix racing. You manage everything from your mechanics and drivers to research, vehicle repairs, engine upgrades, and driver training regimens, all designed to vault you to the top of the leaderboards. It may follow the same layout as Game Dev Story and Hot Springs Story, but this release offers a few improvements that make the simulation a more balanced experience from beginning to end.
As Grand Prix Story starts out, you've got practically nothing. There's just one car to customize, you have a skeleton mechanic crew, and your single driver is all you have to rely on to stay in the races. That's all you need to start your career, however, and even though you won't be winning races your first dozen or so times, you'll still be glued to your phone as you tap here and select there to slowly push yourself to the top.
Start by running your driver through a series of drills to increase skills from intelligence to reaction times. The driver's stats are independent of the vehicle's stats, but they do affect each other, so don't neglect either one during your game. Eventually, you'll unlock new parts you can research and upgrade to add to your car, outfitting it to race on any terrain and in any driving style you like.
Once you're satisfied with how your vehicle runs and how your crew performs, it's time to go race. Early on you only have a few races to choose from, but eventually you'll be able to browse a number of outings that feature tougher tracks, smarter drivers, and higher cash payouts. Watch the race as it unfolds, frowning and cheering your little driver buddy as he or she does everything on his own. When the race ends, collect your prize money and head back to the garage for some more fine-tuning.
Analysis: Grand Prix Story comes across as dry in description, but it's exactly the sort of game you can sink hours upon hours into. It's well-designed for the mobile platform, allowing you to pick up and play for as long as you like, stopping in to adjust research directions, hire new drivers, train old ones, or just run a race to see how things go.
Compared to previous Kairosoft offerings, Grand Prix Story makes several adjustments that make the game play more smoothly in its twilight. For example, you won't win races from the beginning, and instead you have to slowly train your driver and car to get better at what they do. This inevitably leads to some sort of specialization and lop-sided research point distribution, which the game allows you to fix by running through races you aren't equipped to handle. It sounds awkward in writing, but when you play the game you'll see how intuitive and logical the system is. No farming, just a little bit of grinding and intelligent stat adjustments.
The downside to Grand Prix Story is that it does share a lot in common with its predecessors, from the look and feel to the actual design of the game. You're racing cars instead of making video games, which is different, but if you close your eyes very tightly you can imagine the two are interchangeable. Even if you were a Game Dev Story addict, this copy/paste design isn't an issue, as once you get into the experience, you'll realize they aren't as interchangeable as they first appear.
Another fine mobile offering from Kairosoft, guaranteed to keep you busy using your phone for anything but making phone calls!