Grand Prix Story is an astonishingly addictive simulation game

Racing is an acquired taste. For some it’s the eternal struggle between man and machine, a battle of wits at breakneck speed and indulgence in automotive destruction. For others it’s loud and dull repetition. The same applies to racing games. For the former, it’s a chance to emulate idols with the virtual rush of high speed driving. The latter would probably enjoy being hit by the car as opposed to digitally driving it.

The merits of racing games provide an interesting foundation for Grand Prix Story. What about a racing simulator? Surely that’s a shortcut to anorak territory. Let’s get one thing straight: by simulation we don’t mean simulative driving where car tweaking and precise breaking is on the agenda. We’re referring to actual racing management.

That thrilling premise is the foundation of Grand Prix Story, the latest cutesy iOS game from Kariosoft. The popular Japanese developer broke into the iPhone gaming scene with a port of their game development sim, Game Dev Story. You played the head of a fledgling development studio tasked with steering your team of upstarts towards AAA blockbuster material. It was deliciously self-aware and played up massively to its sense of Meta.

Start Your Engines

Grand Prix Story takes the same formula and injects some turbo into it. Just like its predecessor, you begin at the bottom. Occupying a dank and messy garage, you have one car design and a small team. Starting from nothing is never easy, but over time you’ll research enough upgrades to begin creating formidable racing machines.

Along the way you’ll unlock new car designs, parts and sponsorship opportunities. Unlike Game Dev Story’s hit-and-miss strategy, Grand Prix Story is more linear and makes more sense — it is much clearer in its feedback. For example, having a strong team with a good driver and the right parts will yield cars capable of winning races. As you unlock new championships, the opposition gets harder to beat. Therefore, just as you start to leave your rivals in the dust, a new Grand Prix will unlock and you’ll find yourself at the back of the pack again.

It’s this constant rise and fall that keeps you hooked for just one more race. Along with this, the game drip feeds the necessary components for improving your team and results. You’re always just behind first place with the winning car and its tech just out of reach. The latter stages do attempt to mix things up  with different race surfaces, bringing the requirement for multiple car set-ups.

There’s no way you can win with a jack-of-all-trades car — you must carefully specialise.

Pole Position

Obviously being a Kariosoft game means the above is presented in a cute Japanese animation style that hides the complex simulation mechanics. There’s a lot of math behind the scenes, but most of the time you’ll enjoy the cartoon races and miniature drivers.

It is worth noting that apart from a one-time-boost ‘Aura’, there’s not actually any way to control your cars.

Some might find it difficult relinquishing control, but being on rails means you’re able to focus on tweaking your set-up. It works better this way — trust us. Having controllable cars would take away the simulation and open up the game to manipulation.

Sure, it’s not for everyone, and often the results of your management can be completely random, but its unpredictability is half its charm. Kariosoft showed strength with Game Dev Story and has followed through the addictive fun with Grand Prix Story. The only thing left is to wait and see what’s next.

Macgasm's Gaming correspondent. Lover of technology who can be found on Twitter. More detailed musings are located at my blog.