[Mini-Review] Gallop Racer 2006
I hate when this happens. As the only person in the office that's actually been to a horse race (thanks, Tecmo), and even a passing interest in the sport, the review of the game falls to me. The guy who's never played a horse racing game before. So as you read through this incredibly short review, bear this in mind. In a way, it's a good thing, since the vast majority of gamers out there will likely be in the same shoes; blissfully unaware that there's such a thing as a horse racing game addiction.
I wouldn't call myself an addict yet (at least not for horses), but after being taken down to a track, learning how betting works, and playing through more hours of the game than perhaps I should have, I've learned two things. First, this is indeed a fun game, regardless of your interest in horses; there's enough to see and do outside of just whipping the crap out of your horse that it deepens in involvement in the whole process. Second, I suck ass at it. I was never able to squeak out a win on even normal difficulty after pouring double-digit hours into the game.
For our biggest and most exhaustive (or exhausting?) preview to date, check out our hands-on impressions of the game. It'll give you the full skinny on things like the different game modes, gets a little more than objective on some points and generally is word-for-word the kind of feelings I still have of the game hours into it.
That's the extent of our verdict on the positive side of things things. Yes, it's a horrible review, and I'm well aware of that. What's scary is that I was also the most qualified of the folks here at the office to review the game. Next year (if there is a next year), I'm pulling talent from the horse racing message boards out there to do the review. They'll be able to pick out the nuanced changes and improvements when I simply have no point of reference.
It shouldn't really matter in a game like this, but I do feel like GR2006 isn't an especially pretty game. Yes, it recreates real-life tracks (though it can't preserve the actual names, which is fine), the framerate is fine, and the textures as a whole are there, it just doesn't feel... punchy. This is a wholly personal take on things, but the interface and menus feel a little blah. Then again, radically overhauling everything with tons of flash would probably piss off the fans, so I don't see things changing drastically -- even in the next-gen versions of the series.
Really, that's about it. Shorter notes than The Good, which is sad, really, but the game is just not targeted at the mass market -- or at least isn't presented in that way. The game difficulty alone (or lack of tutorials that help make it clear how one should race) show that it's aimed at people that already know the series or the sport.
There's no other way to say this: GR2006 isn't for most gamers. Like some of Tecmo's other niche titles, it's not just a universally appealing game. You'll have to do research to understand some aspects of the game if you aren't a horse racing buff, and even still things won't make complete sense. That's not a knock against the game per se, just the sport as a whole, which doesn't really favor newcomers unless you're introduced by an old hand.
Is the game fun? Yes, absolutely, and likely far more fun than you ever through a game about horse breeding and racing could be. There's an accessibility here that makes it easy to jump into and goof around in, but actually gleaning any real lasting value is going to come down to nothing more than your own personal drive to learn more. As you do, the game rewards the research by painting an unapologetic picture of the complexity that goes into this stuff.
At the end of the day, though, you're still going to have to have a real interest in the sport. Yes, it took me 700+ words to say that, but it's not like the game will completely turn you off if you haven't played a horse racing game before. It's just going to be... puzzling. Much like why we did this review at all.