Send this pony to the glue factory.
If videogames were euphemisms, then I could think of no more fitting euphemism
for horseracing than Tecmo’s newly ported version of their Japanese game Gallop
Racer. The game features relatively few sim elements, shoddy graphics, and
a lame racing engine.
So, why is the game a euphemism? I’ll explain…
In the world of Gallop Racer, there is no pain or deceit. You (the
male or female jockey) start out with not money, but special horse racing points.
These points can be used to buy the wild stallion of your choice. Horses are
ranked according to how well they handle grassy, wet, and rough tracks. Entering
races costs you no points, but placing high in a group of 12 horses will cost
you a few hundred points. Why doesn’t Tecmo just use dollars instead of points?
Aside from laziness, I suspect they want to steer clear of horse racing’s connections
to gambling. You heard right, points or no points, there is no gambling in
“What! There’s no gambling and no money in a freakin’ horseracing game?” you
say. “But isn’t that what horse racing is all about?” Dear reader, you are absolutely
right. Read on, if you dare.
What is left is a game that focuses on the actual racing of horses. Horseracing: the biggest non-sport behind ice-skating and single synchronized swimming (a sport that was removed from the Olympics 8 years ago).
Most horse races last a mere minute and a half. Essentially, you go around
the track for a while, command your horse when to go faster or slower, and then
beat the horse with a whip during the last mile push. Is this really a sport
that needs its own videogame? To top off the excitement, when I attempted to
cause a massive crash in the game by running my horse into the rest of the pack,
I was bumped away and the race resumed. No panicked horses, no mangled thoroughbreds,
no midget jockeys flying through the air. What manner of videogame is this?
To be fair, the game’s
racing mode features a stamina meter for your horse, and horses react to track
conditions according to their performance ratings. But after five or so races,
the game grows stale. There is simply not enough depth in the game to keep lasting
interest. And the ‘create your own horse’ feature would be interesting if every
other developer didn’t put a ‘create your own something’ in each of their games.
With all the bad parts Gallop Racer has working against it, the cheap
graphics and sound break the horse’s back, and send an already sub-par racing
sim into abysmal territory. Although the warm-up screen for races feature a
beautifully rendered (motion-captured) horse, all polygons go to hell while
racing. Horses move with choppiness, never appearing to touch the ground, and
the frame-rate is equal to that of first-gen Playstation titles. Sound is limited
to hooves stomping accompanied by odd jazz/techno fusion music. Too bad, because
the game could have soared in this department if it had featured a cocky ’30s
The final question that must be asked is why? Who will buy this game? Actual
racing is boring, and the real-life horseracing elements are toned down for
this release. Here’s a message to game companies for the next time they think
about making another horseracing game: Leave the gambling in, for God’s sake.
Otherwise, it’s one boring race.