For those unfamiliar with the origins of Choro Q, it is a Japanese wind-up toy car developed in 1980 by the Takara Co., one of the largest toy makers in Japan. The Playstation 2 title Choro Q is the latest installment in a long line of forgettable Choro Q games developed by Atlus. Touted as a "CAR-PG", this game attempts to combine the hi-octane elements of street-racing with the story and developmental aspects of a role-playing game. Although the racing itself is very routine, the Story mode offers some much needed depth provided that you devote enough game time. However, it seems like the folks at Atlus fail to address the important technical aspects of the game, which reflects in their mediocre graphics, sounds, and overall poor presentation.
After watching the opening movie sequence, which showcases the bright, colorful graphics, the blocky little cars, and the simplistic soundtrack, you get the impression that this game is targeted towards a younger audience. Be that as it may, it is a shame that the graphics are nowhere near what the Playstation 2 is capable of handling; instead the graphics are comparable to that of the original Playstation. The objects and cars are too angular with very little detail and although there are numerous environments and race tracks to choose from, most of them are poorly designed and hard to follow. Much to my chagrin, the sound in the game is no better. You will start to hear the same mind-numbing tune if you stay on a menu for an extended time. The lackluster soundtrack is complemented by dull screeching of tires and other uninteresting bells and whistles. The controls in this game are also very annoying. The in-race controls are extremely basic and unresponsive and the commands to go back and forth between menu screens are not intuitive at all. Yet the thing that frustrates me the most about this game is the gameplay. Atlus fails to include some essential RPG elements, like the ability to add characters to your team, making the races unexciting rather quickly. Seeing that Choro Q attempts to incorporate RPG features, it would have been nice to see some sort of combat platform a là Mario Kart, where players can acquire objects to use against other combatants.
There are three different modes of play in Choro Q. There are two quick race modes: a single player mode where you race against multiple computer players and a two-player battle mode which allows you to play head-to-head against a friend in races or mini games. You can choose from various on or off-road courses and a range of different cars, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the game's racing engine is very elementary and does not offer much in terms of difficulty and gameplay making for a rather boring experience in both racing modes. Luckily, there is a Story mode which provides more depth and customizable options.
Simply put, the main objective of the Story mode is to win races and complete tasks, earn money, upgrade your car, and join a team to enter the Grand Prix. You'll begin your career as a basic Choro Q car with rudimentary parts, which is frustrating at first because it makes it nearly impossible to win races other than the beginner oval track race. The game becomes a total grind as you are forced to re-enter the same beginner races until you win enough money to afford better parts. This drags on for way too long in the earlier stages of the game and will surely test your patience. Your other option is to scour the town for other Choro Q cars who mostly offer useless greetings or irrelevant information. On occasion, you will have to complete tasks like patrolling the streets as a police car to earn money. However, besides roaming around and looking for odd jobs, there isn't much else the town has to offer.
As you slowly win more races and earn more money, you will be able to pimp your ride, causing new areas and race tracks to open up. The upgrade system in Choro Q is perhaps the most complete feature of the game. Almost every part you purchase will have an effect on the car's performance, with the exception of add-ons such as dice and audio equipment which are purely for aesthetic purposes. You can purchase body parts (roof, hood, etc ), performance parts (engine, brakes, etc ), and other accessories like onboard computers! Most parts will simply increase your cars overall performance, but certain parts are only helpful under specific conditions. For example, you can purchase off-road tires which will only enhance your car's performance during an off-road race like the Jurassic Road race. From my experience, I would go with steering, transmission, and engine upgrades before spending money on other improvements. Although the concepts of having countless customizable parts and a system of "leveling-up" to progress through the game follows that of classical RPGs, it is not enough to compensate for the games technical flaws, poor presentation, and primitive racing engine.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to consider is the game's fun factor. Regrettably, I would have to say that unless you are a pre-teen child, chances are you will not enjoy this game. The graphics, sounds, and gameplay are far too unsophisticated for the average to experienced gamer. With all this said, keep in mind that the game is geared towards a younger audience so a more basic game engine and simpler layout may have been the goal. Still, there is no excuse for the poor quality of gameplay. Although this game does not provide much in replay value, at $20 it's a bargain for the ten year-old car lover or the Choro Q fanatic.
For more information on "Choro Q" and other Atlus games, visit www.atlus.com/choroq/