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As I've been playing more video games recently I've come to realise something; I don't like reading instructions. Which is odd really because when faced with a box of flat-pack furniture the first thing I do is read the instructions, to check that I have all of the pieces and to make sure I put it together in the right order.
However, when it comes to anything electronic I want to jump right in; DVD recorders, websites, software - when it comes to these things I expect them to be user-friendly and intuitive. It appears I think the same about video games. Unfortunately, with most games, G1 Jockey 4 included, if you don't read the instructions you just don't get the most out of the game.
G1 Jockey 4 includes a tutorial to teach you how to ride the horses, which I jumped straight into. There are three controller methods in the PS3 version; use the D-pad, use the directional sticks, or shake the controller. As a Wii fan I of course chose the latter option, and couldn't work out why even though I was following the tutorial my horse wasn't moving. Turns out you actually have to go into the settings screen and tell the system which controller method you wish to use, and it defaults to D-pad. And there lies my problem with video games, they're often not intuitive, there always seems to be something hidden away.
This isn't a game where you can just press buttons; you need to think strategically.
Once I'd got the tutorial out of the way I challenged my husband to a race; he spent a few minutes searching through the many horses looking for one most suited to the form, the weather and the length of the course. I picked the one with the best sounding name!
The first few times we raced Lee was up in the head of the pack and I continually came last, but determined as I was to beat him, we kept repeating the race. Before too long I had mastered the controls and was able to consistently rank second. This isn't a game where you can just press buttons; you need to think strategically about which horse to select, where in the pack does he like to race, does he suit the form and the track. A good start is vital if you want to place, and you need to think about when to use your whip to urge your horse down the final furlongs. Once you've mastered the flat courses you can move onto jumps which is another skill altogether!
Once we'd had our fill of competitive races I decided to move onto the story mode; and that's where things went downhill.
Despite my poor review of Nights: Journey into Dreams Wii the developers of that game had obviously put a lot of effort into the story scenes, with each of the characters having a speaking part. Perhaps Koei, the developers of G1 Jockey should have taken a leaf out of their book. Given that this is the fourth game in this series, and was developed for the PS3 I was hugely disappointed by the story scenes. They were made up of static backgrounds and cut out characters. There was no speech; you had to follow which character was speaking by reading the text and seeing which person was in the spotlight, it was very tedious.
The poor production here was really an insight in what was to come. Story mode sees you playing a jockey who has to graduate from riding school before you get to race in the real pro-jockey races. I think this was meant to be a tutorial mode, but the explanations were confusing and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. Despite never finishing first I somehow managed to graduate though!
Once you reach the pro-jockey races the game moves from a racing game to a simulation style affair. You have to book races, train your horses and visit stables; but it's all very clunky and confusing.
I was severely tempted by the Wii version of this game as it ties in with the Wii Balance Board.
I'm not sure the developers of G1 Jockey knew what style of game they were trying to deliver here, and I came away feeling very confused. I really enjoyed the competitive race side of it, but would have liked some sort of scoreboard so you could see whether you were outranking your competitor over a period of time. In reality you just ride race after race with no feedback. The other half-hearted aspect was the controller options; giving a player a choice of which controller system to use is a great idea; but when you play with more than one player you are all forced to choose the same option!
I didn't enjoy the jockey school or management sim aspect; with a bit more thought and imagination it could have been fun, but the developers left a lot to be desired.
I think Koei have missed a trick with this game; the single player option is clunky and confusing and the competitive races are so difficult to master that it's not the kind of game you can just pull out when friends come to visit. I was severely tempted by the Wii version of this game as it ties in with the Wii Balance Board, but I think I'll give it a miss.
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