Does familiarity breed contempt? Or is it more often the truth that familiarity simply begets boredom, and a gradual withdrawal? Kairosoft's iOS debut, Game Dev Story, was a pared down and idiosyncratic take on the management genre that stole hearts, its pixelly caricatures and Engrish gags reminiscent of nothing so much as the import SNES days. It didn't have the look of something from a production line, and yet Grand Prix Story isn't merely a follow-up to Game Dev Story – it's the fourth management game Kairosoft has put out since February.
You're in charge of a racing team, and have to take them from smalltown circuits up to the Formula One championship: hiring and firing, building and researching, expanding and repairing. It's exactly the same blend of resource and time management that made Game Dev Story swallow hours, as you divided your attention between immediate results and plans for a triumphant future. Except now, everything is racing-flavoured, so your staff are drivers and mechanics and their stats are named 'pedal' or 'tech', plus there's the races themselves.
It's here that Grand Prix Story begins to disappoint. Races are dull affairs, mainly because your role is simply to watch them – there's no option to skip, and a 'fast' option is frustratingly disabled until the game's been cleared once. Kairosoft's visual style here is as breezy and charming as ever, with a jaunty set of jingles, but what's underneath feels flat – it's just not interactive enough.
Grand Prix Story lifts most of what it is directly from Game Dev Story, and it is this familiarity that brings it low rather than any inherent flaws. If you've never played a Kairosoft game before, Grand Prix Story is as good a starting-point as any, but others will know before entering a single race what to expect. It betrays the simulation as skin-deep – a world where the numbers really are just numbers. So despite the winner podiums and big sponsorship contracts and – yes – even the hours you'll spend in this askew universe, Grand Prix Story feels more like deja vu than entertainment. The formula is rapidly palling.