Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I remember talking with Fwiffo about how it would probably be a good idea to have a PDA games section, and we toyed around with the idea for a while, and figured it was worth a shot, and so the PDA Reviews section started. The second review published in our section was Race Fever – and it was to the Palms of then what GTS Racing is to the Palms of today.
GTS Racing is a game that, in a cliché manner of saying, “pushes the envelope” of racing simulation games for today’s devices. The game was actually released about a month ago, but only recently did the high-resolution update for Clie devices come out, which made it worth waiting for (and it was a free update, for what I must pass on infinite kudos to the company).
The basic premise of the game is, of course, quite simple – you race to win. But it has a variety of modes and difficulties to make things more interesting. First off, you can play in a Single Race, a Challenge Cup, a Grand Tour or a Championship mode. Single Race does what it sounds like. Challenge Cup and Grand Tour are similar in that they pass you through a series of races; Challenge Cup has 8 races, and Grand Tour has 32. Championship, is similar to Challenge Cup in that it has 8 races, but you also qualify for every race, and get points. For each race, there are difficulties, and for all except Championship, they determine placement – for instance, on Extreme, you must place 2nd or better in a race, on Hard – 3rd or better, and so forth. Of course, raising the difficulty also raises the speed of opponents: they drive better and faster. On Championship, since there is no required placement (your score is tallied by points), just the difficulty of opponents rises.
For controls, you can use either the Graffiti pad, or the buttons. For some devices, the button placement might be convenient, but for instance, on the Clie NR/NX/NZ-series, the buttons are inconveniently placed, so if you play in tablet mode, Graffiti is probably a better idea. You can also have a manual transmission, though I honestly don’t think that’s a good idea, since the game simply becomes much too hectic. But (as I always say when designing things), more functions can’t possibly be worse – it gives flexibility to the user (I know, that’s a silly way of thinking, that just generates more “blinking 12” syndromes in users).
The graphics in the game are quite impressive. The motion is very smooth, and even though I immediately overclocked my Clie to try to run this game, even non-overclocked, it ran very well. One thing I was slightly disappointed in was the high-resolution update: the things that became “high-res” weren’t the ones I was hoping to see. The menus, cars and backgrounds are all high resolution now; but the actual track and track textures/detail are still low resolution. I tried running the game on an OS5 device, but the situation didn’t change (I thought it was a CPU power issue). So the game looks much better now, of course, but I rather wish it were fully high resolution, if only for OS5 devices (I suppose it would definitely be a CPU speed issue on the DragonBall-series CPUs, even overclocked).
Other things that are important to game play are car control and realism. The car control in the game is not bad, and cars actually feel like they have the proper amount of inertia and under/oversteer, though it, of course, feels different from PC games. You will need to adjust a bit to it. That said, cars behave well, although collisions are less spectacular than I would like to see them: it would be neat to see the car flip over, go crazy, then get replaced on the track like in most arcade games. In GTS Racing Challenge, you, well, bump into the other car. As well, when you drive on the grass beside the track, the car slows down immensely.
Of course, no game is ever perfect, and that applies to GTS as well. There is no multiplayer mode (I miss the IR multiplayer from Race Fever…), and the memory footprint is even more astounding than the 365K of Race Fever: the game itself is 1,160KB and it requires another 1.3MB of free RAM to execute, essentially making it a 2.4MB game. Until Sony graces us with 64MB devices, I think this game will be a bit difficult to run for many (in my case, I either have AvantGo or GTS).
Overall, GTS Racing Challenge is a really, really good game. It has a lot of play modes, it runs on a variety of devices, and it looks quite pretty. I really wish it had a multiplayer mode, but I think the effort put into developing it deserves an award – it should hopefully provide encouragement for other developers to put some time into developing high-resolution, high-action games for the Palm platform… with the new speedy OS5 devices on the market, this should open a realm of possibilities for new games (and I’m not even talking about the NX-series’ 320x480 resolution…)