The trick with checking out a new iPhone game from Gameloft, the makers of many hits on the platform, is to look for a clue of resemblance to some other game you've heard of. Cars? "GT Racing"? A ha!
Later this week or early next, Gameloft will release GT Racing: Motor Academy on the iPhone and iPod touch, likely ringing the bells of anyone browsing the App store who has ever heard of Sony's Gran Turismo. I played the game this morning, noting the similarities: licensed cars (108 of them), real manufacturers (25 of them), authentic races, and a career progression based both on earning licenses through driving tests and money with which to buy real cars associated with your best license.
Imitation is a Gameloft hallmark, up there with a reputation for making sure its imitators are solid entries to a genre. Sony's not on the iPhone, so why not have someone else put out a Gran Turismo? The only competitor to GT Racing, a Gameloft spokesperson told me this morning, was Real Racing, the leading simulation-based driving game.
I raced a lap and took a few license tests in Gameloft's new game. I pressed my right thumb on a virtual pedal to accelerate, kept my left one near a virtual break. I used the iPhone's accelerometer to steer, and maintained my perspective outside of my car. A virtual steering wheel can be used instead and an in-cockpit perspective will be available in the full release of the game. For my lap, I raced in a pack of 10 licensed cars, trying to stick to a familiar best-route line of colored arrows that I last saw in Forza 3. Those who would roll their eyes at the influences might miss that the game has spectacular, smooth graphics. The license tests were the game's most basic: Accelerate down a straightaway and then try to brake in the designated area, take a turn smoothly without hitting a wall, overtake a Ford Focus with a Toyota Corolla, etc.
The feature list includes six-player races, competed locally or online. I counted over 60 events in the game's menu of accomplishments.
The success of Gran Turismo is its authenticity, of course, its ability to feel so much like the real act of driving real cars. That's why they call it the Real Driving Simulator.
It looks as if GT Racing, then, is supposed to be a Real Gran Turismo Simulator, a game made to feel like the real act of playing Gran Turismo. It's a good formula. For $9.99, players will soon be able to figure out if it's done right, if the iPhone/iPod Touch can handle it, and if Gameloft can, well, get away with it.