Saturday 25 September 2021

GTS Racing Challenge (Tapwave Zodiac review)

Developer: Pazzazz Games
Publisher: Astraware Limited
Released: 2003

GTS Racing Challenge is an arcade-style racing game that's exclusive to Palm OS devices.

There's three cars, 12 venues and a total of 48 different tracks to race on. Game modes consist of Single Race, Championship (points-based mode with qualifying laps), Challenge Cup (where you must finish 12 races within a certain position) and Grand Tour (all tracks consecutively). The action is fast-paced with a solid engine that never shows any sign of slowdown. Screeching around corners is ridiculously entertaining and the gameplay perfectly captures the tussle between driving aggressively and teetering on the edge of control. It eases you in nicely too by allowing you to learn the driving / cornering mechanics in the Easy stages before ratcheting up the difficulty. The tracks themselves are well designed and offer plenty of corners for you to speed through, while eventually introducing tight turns that pretty much require you to learn the layout (or use the handy overhead map) in order to brake while keeping as much acceleration as possible. The surrounding locales are poorly designed though, as apart from some blurry, compressed background images there's nothing to distinguish New York City from (for example) Denver. Other downsides include a limited draw distance and pop-in where corners can appear with barely any warning, and it's irritating that your individual lap times aren't included at the end of each race (only your fastest one is displayed). There's also not much in the way of presentation (the menus are rather basic), or personality (the complete absence of music means you'll be relying solely on SFX). Still, there's heaps of content to sink your teeth into and the three cars are different enough (in terms of top speed and handling) that you'll want to challenge yourself to master them.

GTS Racing Challenge is a competent title that's deep on content and wrapped up in a fantastic gameplay engine that ensures speed and fun are the order of the day. With a little more attention to its presentation and scenic variation it could have been a top-tier game, but even-so there's still plenty of reasons to dive in.  

Random trivia: A Game Boy Advance port was planned, but was ultimately cancelled.

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