Ever since first getting to play a port of the original Pole Position on a PC back in the day, racing games have held a special place in my heart. The graphics were pretty basic (but not bad for the time), the physics not realistic and the course rather boring but it still managed to be awesomely fun – if only because it was the first thing I'd played like it. Time though has passed and so now when I play a racing game where the graphics are pretty basic, the physics not realistic, and the courses unexciting I am left disappointed. Consequently, GTI Club – Supermini Festa!, despite its exclamation point promise of excitement leaves this reviewer downright disappointed.
GTI Club – Supermini Festa!, as with many racing games, has a pretty simple setup. The game lets you play in five different countries – France, the UK, Italy, Japan, and the USA. All that means though is that the background and course is different, and sort of, kind of, almost, in some way based on the perceived look of the country you're in.
No matter the mode you play in, you start off getting to buy one car. In Quest Mode you can only race on one track. Beat your opponent and you get a medal (bronze, silver, or gold depending on performance). You also unlock the next course and can earn bonuses for your car. Keep playing and you get to buy more cars, earn more bonuses, and unlock more courses. There are several different contest types available, although certainly not enough for the number of courses or to make the experience enjoyable. The two more traditional races are one-on-one on a closed course and one-on-one with innocent bystander cars. There are then more mini-game-esque contests like coin collecting, tomato throwing, and bomb passing. One of the better mini-games included is car soccer, in which you go up against another car (or two if you're playing two against two) and try to hit a massive ball into an oversized goal. It is very clever and would be hugely original if the guys on Top Gear hadn't already actually played real car football (they're British, so it's "football") … twice.
One of the largest problems with the Quest Mode – an essential part of the game if you want to get better cars and upgrade the ones you have – is that you only ever unlock one course at a time and have to earn a medal on each of the beginner missions before you can move on to the first intermediate difficulty level course, where you again have to go one-by-one to get to the next difficulty level. It is not that it's hard to earn a medal on any of the courses; quite the opposite, it is incredibly easy and the fact that you can't simply move to a more worthy difficulty level without spending hours on the easier difficulty levels is frustrating.
In addition to also having an Arcade Mode which allows you to do all manner of races (though it seems as though more difficult courses there are only unlocked after unlocking them in Quest) and still earn points to buy new stuff, the game does offer an online mode, but you can't cheat the system and get more worthy opponents by going online. You can set the online mode to only go up against friends, but if you venture into the larger online section, it's neither ranked nor does it allow you opt to only allow the usage of cars without mods that have been earned in Quest Mode. Thus, when you go online, you have to do so with relatively suped-up cars because the people you're going up against will have them. That means you need to go through Quest Mode; don't and the game goes from being not competitive due to its ease to not competitive due to its impossibility.
The issues with Supermini Festa! don't end there however. Oh no, the cars have horrifically jagged edges, and despite their being 16 customizable rides, due to the poor graphics a whole bunch of them look pretty similar during races. Cars jump in ways that can't possibly happen (they almost feel like RC vehicles when they do) and, more disturbingly, have the ability to go through many a tree as though they weren't there because apparently many of them are nothing more than mirages. Other trees do actually exist, but only in order to push your car to one side or another, they never actually cause you to crash. That's okay though, because even when you crash in a race it costs you very little – just a few seconds and sometimes your opponent won't catch up to you even when they weren't all that far behind prior to the crash. Go ahead, hit walls, cones, trees, rocks, other vehicles, whatever you want – if the crash doesn't completely reset you with minimal penalty, it causes no damage whatsoever.
The menu system is not without issues either. After you earn an upgrade in a race you have to back out of a myriad of submenus until you get the option to enter the garage and adjust your vehicle. Then, upon completing the installation of your car's upgrade, you need to go back through a bunch of menus to get to the next race – you spend more time going through the menus than you do upgrading the car.
There are some fun aspects to the game, mainly finding various shortcuts and trying to determine which shortcuts are shortcuts and which are longer paths as well as the game's Wii wheel compatibility (for the extra challenge of trying to use the device). The fun though is almost completely lost when having to deal dealing with the game's shortcomings. For the game to not be realistic would be fine, but the game isn't particularly over the top or exciting in its lack of realism either. There are, in short, better racing choices out there.
GTI Club – Supermini Festa! is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: PSP