When I was 14, I spent hours upon hours playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis, going through the same race over and over with the second-worst bike in the game (it was best to get the second-worst bike because it's pretty much impossible to win a race with the worst bike). After winning some large amount of races, I would have enough money to buy the best bike in the game. I would then happily tear through the middle portions of the game with little effort expended beyond holding down the accelerate button and avoiding obvious crashes.
The thrill of acquisition and observing the enhanced performance of my vehicle was a delight that many modern racing games have come to utilize. After all, how else could the myriad options available to the user in the car fanatic's racing game, Gran Turismo, be explained? The multiple categories of equipment, the trade-offs between different pieces of gear and the toiling work needed to accrue enough lucre to acquire a shining new piece of machinery…it's all very similar to how the role-playing game (RPG) genre functions, only substitute swords, armor and spells in lieu of new tires or a more powerful engine.
Indeed, what I was doing in Road Rash was exactly the same concept as "power-leveling" in RPGs, repeatedly defeating the same easy prey over and over again until the characters have so much XP/money that it becomes possible to overwhelm future challenges through sheer brute force. The two genres definitely have their similarities. ChoroQ is a game that takes these conceptual parallels between the car game and the RPG and smashes them together.
As a blend of these two genres, ChoroQ is a self-described "caRPG." It's not a bad description, as the game is structurally very similar to Gran Turismo, except that instead of using menus to access races or to improve your car, the player interfaces with these mechanics through a basic RPG, complete with towns, non-player characters and encounters.
This RPG-interface is a good idea that isn't really implemented beyond the most basic of steps. By running into other cars on the road or entering garages/houses, the player can have very simple conversations with the other cars in the game. I suppose I should mention that the whole concept of the driver has been eliminated from the game. The player is the car and the car is the player and all the NPCs are cars and all the houses are actually garages…and, well, the idea is hopefully made clear.
The cars, along with everything else in the game, look like children's toys. Which is appropriate, because they are. But yes, the player "talks" with the other cars (usually they just yell at the player) and visits shops and…does RPG-style things. By accumulating money (usually through racing) and doing various tasks for the other cars, new parts can be purchased, either increasing performance or makin' the ride look sweeter.
Many times the townscars will ask the player to engage in a series of different minigames, which involve deliveries, doing farm work, fishing, playing slot cars…these games vary from overly-simplistic to well done, but since there's no indication of how to play these minigames or how the car's controls have changed, expect to be frustrated for the first few tries.
As mentioned earlier, these minigames result either in money or parts that can be applied back at the player's garage, which is also where the player must go to race (another aspect of the game that goes unexplained outside of the manual, which led to some aggravation at first because I expected that the cars would be racing at an actual physical location rather than some magic racing world accessed only through my garage).
Well, the question that is probably being asked at this point is: How does the actual racing play? And the answer is: Pretty good, after a slight transition period.
It's easy to think that the racing in ChoroQ is either wildly simplistic (a reaction spurred by the "basic" quality of the overall game) or broken to the point of ill-usability (a reaction that is best supported by playing the game for 5 minutes and then chucking it because the cars use an odd physics system and are ridiculously underpowered at first). The key to realizing that the game is something else entirely is remembering that the cars are presented as toy cars not because the game is for children, but because these are toy cars.
No really, that's important. I'll assume that most people have played with toy cars at some point in their lives. It's pretty obvious that if they came with a tiny internal combustion engine in them, the differences in scale and therefore physics would necessitate a driving experience greatly changed from our own Brobdignagian automobiles. ChoroQ is simulating this fantastic arrangement and thus feels wrong to anybody familiar with real driving or any number of modern games that simulate driving—but once this feeling is surrendered, the finesse of the driving becomes more obvious.
The competitive racing in ChoroQ depends very much on discovering The Line. The Line is the path described by the perfect navigation of the course, a series of elliptical curves that arc from turn to turn, gracefully stretching out on the straight sections. Each angle, acceleration and deceleration must be absolutely precise. To deviate from The Line is to lose time and likely, the race. Success is largely determined by knowledge of the track—being experienced winds up being more important than mere skill. This Line is a mechanic which separates the simulation racer from the arcade or kart racers and the face that ChoroQ uses it is as good an indicator as any that it is a simulation at heart.
The Line is mediated by another major aspect to modern racers, drifting, which is essentially the ability to slide your car through a turn using lateral momentum, rather than braking and then re-orienting the car. The implementation of drifting in ChoroQ is one that was unfamiliar to me, but became second nature fairly easily. Drift is initiated by holding the left analog stick to the side after you go into a turn. If you hold the drift too long, the car will automatically apply the brakes, making the drift a little shakier and reducing your speed. If you continue to hold the drift, the car will violently spin out.
These simple aspects combine to form a racing experience that skews near to what would be expected given a certain amount of experience with real racing, but involves a number of twists that are make it different enough to be interesting.
There is a pretty good variety of courses that fit with various kinds of driving styles, including a fair amount of rally courses that require the use of off-road tires. The courses sometimes have a kart-racer style to them, but the racing remains relatively "realistic," minus a few sections that involve driving up/down stairs.
Difficulty in ChoroQ is based almost entirely on the purchase of upgrades. Like Road Rash, it's fairly easy to acquire cash on the easy races, bulk up your car, and cruise through multiple difficulty levels with ease. If the upgrades are applied more evenly over the course of the game, the driving becomes much more challenging. Regardless, the game will not just roll over and die—it becomes necessary eventually to learn how to control the car and race effectively in order to win.
ChoroQ is a game about toy-car-racing with a unique although not spectacular racing system that chooses to imbed this racing, like an egg, inside a pretty bland and lifeless RPG that features toy cars that yell at you for coming into their house. It's not for everybody. It's not for most folks, actually. But it's got heart, and that definitely counts for something.
- World Tour Soccer 2006 – Review - August 2, 2005
- World Tour Soccer 2006 – Consumer Guide - August 2, 2005
- Interview with Clint Hocking - May 24, 2005