G1 Jockey Review (PS3)

It has to be said when it comes to horse racing games the choice is pretty sparse at the best of times. It was therefore with some interest that we received G1 Jockey to review on the Wii. The marketing assured us that this is more than simple cash in on the booming Wii market; ďthe Wiiís unique controllers will enable G1 Jockey Wii to recreate the entire horse racing experience much more realistically and intuitively than ever before.Ē

Fences add an interesting hazard Careful not to get boxed in

Although this does sound remarkably similar to Wii-playís Cow Racing, a favorite in my house, you need to spot a vital difference between the two games. G1 Jockey is no pick-up and play title that anyone can jump on and have a race; this is a simulation first and foremost.

The basic racing mechanic involves balancing your horseís various attributes to squeeze the best performance out of the animal at just the right time in the race. The most important aspect is the amount of stamina the horse has got left, run out of this and you will quickly fall behind. Then there is the current speed, obviously important to keep this high where possible. Whilst you are running the race you also build up your potential meter that is essentially your reserve tank to use once your stamina has run try; most commonly on the home straight. These various attributes, along with a willingness to race gauge, must all be balanced and fine tuned through our Wii controls via the reigns, jockey position and whip.

This system is not new; it has evolved over the course of an existing series of horse racing games. Along with the riding system, the Wii version also inherits its various modes. Firstly, there is the career mode where you work your way through the field of jockeys. You start out as a rookie learning the trade, and aim to progress to become a racing legend. Secondly, thereís the horse breeding mode where you can develop your own stable of thoroughbred race horses. This includes a transfer market of sorts where you can buy and sell different breeds of horses to complement your equestrian gene pool.

Riders of every shape and style Two-player mash ups can be great fun

As we are becoming used to, the Wii controls are then somewhat reversed into this well worn franchise. Something of a happy coincidence means that the Wiiís controls lend themselves to the two main aspects of riding. The Nun-chuck is used to control the reigns, steering and charging. The Wii-mote is used to control the whip with a variety of gestures and button combinations. Although there is no real need for the introduction of these controls, it does make the game feel a little more authentic. This is, as we have suggested, more from luck than judgment. The control implementation itself feels a little jarring, although the Wii offers beautiful analogue controls through the gestures, the game seems to interpret them as digital on/off instructions. It makes it hard trying to edge out around a corner, and just doesnít feel right. Maybe it was just us, but this aspect of the controls seemed to give away their non-analogue origins. Not that this breaks the game at all, it just breaks what suspension of disbelief you may have conjured up.

Graphically, the racing, trading and stabling are well presented with an in the slot behind the horse perspective adopted for the racing sections of the game. The various dials and charts are clear and easy to understand which will be essential for the player to be able to get to grips with the simulation aspects of the game. The horses look believable and well rendered. There is a little interlacing on the main game display when the action is hotting up, but this wasnít too noticeable in the heat of a race.

There are however, real opportunities missed here. No integration of the Wiiís, and no attention to the audience of the Wii. A simple arcade mode that let two or more playerís race against each other in a series of heats would have added a lot of value to the game.

Train a thorough-bread

Overall, this is a game for fans of the previous series, or horse racing aficionados. We need to be clear here, this is not the sort of Wii game that you can pick up have a drunken crack at and come away laughing. The simulation aspect of the game has to be grasped by both hands if you are to find the fun that can be had here. Once you have grasped this nettle, and settled down for a less frantic experience than you do start to find yourself wanting to come back for more.

Top Game Moment:
The moment you realize that you need to work with your mount rather than against it, and you start to really jockey the willing creature. Suddenly what was so hard an awkward for those previous races starts to make sense and you start to find some of that elusive horse racing fun.

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