I’ve spoken of this before, but I have long pined for the perfect road trip game. Driving long distances, eating gas station burritos, regretting not stopping at the last Tim Horton’s to pee; it’s something I would love to see captured in an interactive format. There have been some attempts, and other games provide a similar feel.
I also have an affinity for ChoroQ for… some reason. Honestly, I don’t know why. I didn’t play Penny Racers on N64, and I have two of the Japanese PS1 games on my shelf with no way to play them. I can’t explain myself, really, but somehow it led me to Road Trip.
Road Trip is one of the ChoroQ games that we actually got in North America, and it’s a weird one. Although it is undoubtedly ChoroQ, the concept behind the game seems to be an absolute spitball. It appears to have started as a racing game set in an open world, but as it rolled down hill it picked up… more spit… Hold on, I think a snowball metaphor would have made more sense.
The story behind Road Trip is that the president of… ChoroQLand or something, has decided he doesn’t want to be president anymore and declared that the winner of the World Grand Prix would be the next president. That’s a strange system of government, but when the world is inhabited entirely by cars, I guess it makes sense?
You start off as an absolute nobody with a mere Class C license. Your car sucks, and it’s up to you to drive it across the country (?) and win all the races that your license allows, at which point you’ll be bumped up a level. What follows is the most bizarrely structured, weirdly relaxing, and completely bonkers game I think I’ve ever encountered.
The main reason for this is that everything exists in a big world inhabited by other cars. There are cars in houses, cars in businesses, and cars driving around aimlessly. This means quests, and quests will get you special stuff. Also, there are coins that float around and photo booths to take pictures in. You’re basically let loose with a checklist, and you can tackle it however you want.
Look at it this way: there is absolutely nothing stopping you from just driving from one side of the world to the other. There are no barriers, no special parts you need to cross certain areas, and no goals you need to complete before you move on. If you want to start with the Class C race way up on the mountain, shine on you crazy diamond, the game is not going to question it.
Of course, there’s something to be said about just enjoying the drive from one end of the world to the other. Stopping in towns to solve some problems and win some minigames before moving on. There’s something else to be said about grinding the first race for as much money as you can accumulate, then just driving to the last town and buying up all the best parts before even attempting to upgrade your license rank. You can do that if you want to, I guess. The game won’t tell you you’re wrong.
MAYBE YOU’LL BE PRESIDENT
There’s something relaxing about how laid back the game is. Most of the challenges, minigames, and sidequests don’t have to be done at all. The main advantage to doing them is to get stamps and unlock certain cars for recruitment. You get the odd neat prize, but the best stuff I got was for collecting all the coins. Even then, you can probably get by without doing that.
You make money by winning races and driving around with a sign on your car. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more methods, since this means you’ll be driving the same tracks you’ve already won until you can get the next whiz-bang upgrade. It would be a nice incentive to do more of the side-activities, because those are a major draw for the game. Doing the side-activities is just its own reward, which isn’t going to be enough for some players. Especially those that just want to see the credits roll.
Not that I didn’t wind up doing most of the side-activities, but it was mostly for its own sake. I just wanted to relax in the morning and driving around a town, trying to collect things is just a good way of unwinding.
FOR ITS OWN SAKE
The unique structure is rather important for Road Trip, as the actual driving and racing kind of sucks. The physics are stiff and wonky, and while customizing and upgrading your car is fun, the AI doesn’t put up enough of a fight to make it worthwhile. There’s no damage, so you can bounce off walls with the only expense being your speed. I’d describe the driving as “functional” and nothing else. It makes racing feel like racing, but it’s not going to dethrone much of anything on the console.
Road Trip also has a habit of slowing to a crawl. Remember what I said about grinding races? It’s pretty much mandatory. The World Grand Prix requires that you have two teammates competing with you, and not only do you need to find competent drivers out in the world with nothing to go on but their word, you also need to buy upgrades for their cars. Some parts are very necessary and very expensive, so you might be doing the same races a whole bunch to try and gather up the dosh.
HIT THE ROAD
When it comes down to it, Road Trip is an insanely stupid game. I’m not just talking about it weird sense of humour or absolutely bizarre soundtrack; it’s just so structurally loose that it’s almost commendable. Someone put together a toybox, told you to build your car, then set you free in it. It doesn’t give a damn, just go have fun. There’s lots to be had out there, but a lot of it is collecting.
I personally love the game. I don’t think it’s a love that’s going to be shared by everyone, but it was such a laid back experience that it was hard not to enjoy my time with it. I could grind tracks for money, then when I got bored, I could go and gather coins or play some minigames. I could build My City and just drive around for no reason. It lets you name your own currency and give a town its own unique word for Good-Bye. It’s just a joyful game that wants to give you something to do, but doesn’t want to hassle you about it. It’s beautiful, and there should be more games like Road Trip
This review was conducted on a backwards compatible PS3 using a disk version of the game. It was paid for by the author.