Release Date: May 2, 2006
Buy 'GALLOP RACER 2006': PlayStation 2
Horse racing, known as the sport of kings, is a sport that most people participate in by wagering on it. In turn, the only risk of injury that the gamblers take is the risk of sudden decrease in wallet size. Still, betting on a horse race can be fun, and the excitement in the air is palpable as you see those large, muscular beasts racing around a track at breakneck speeds and listen to the cheers and cajoling that come with it. For those who can't get enough of real-life horse racing, or want to go behind the scenes and take part in some of the other aspects of this sport of kings, Gallop Racer 2006 attempts to provide the full equestrian experience.
Starting out, you'll want to enter the Theme Park where you have all your racing options. From here, you can start onto your long career as a horse owner, breeder, and jockey, as well as a part-time gambler. The amount of options and stats available to view and tweak is astounding, not to mention tedious and occasionally frustrating. From the beginning, you'll choose your jockey's colors and are given some money that you can use to buy your first horse. This is the horse you'll use to build your dynasty. Depending on your horse's stats, type, age, and zodiac sign (not really), it'll be qualified to enter into different races.
You'll basically go through the staggering list of races and find ones that your horse can enter, and then enter it into them. From here, you'll race. The racing part of the game is probably the most exciting and also the most complex. Your horse can have numerous abilities or faults that can help or hurt it during a race. For instance, it might be delicate and can't handle being knocked around in the pack, or it might not like straightaways or turns. On the other hand, it might be explosive when it gets ahead of the pack, or have great speed when it's on the outside line. Each of these traits must be taken into account when you're racing your steed around the track.
Before the race, you'll have the opportunity to bet on the race. All the standard betting options are there, such as win, place and show. There are also the non-standard betting options, such as quinella and trifecta. Depending on the risk you take, the reward can be large. Betting on your own horse to win can be lucrative, as long as you are sure it's going to win. Otherwise, gambling can be a quick road to bankruptcy. However, you need money to proceed, so taking a risk is necessary if you want to proceed quickly and not make your money solely from the first place prizes.
Thankfully, it's not all about the horse. There is a certain amount of skill involved in the race itself, and if you aren't proficient enough in guiding your horse with the reins and encouraging him with the whip, you'll find yourself losing consistently. On the flipside, if you are a skilled rider, you'll find yourself able to beat faster horses with your own weaker horse. The race itself requires reflexes and timing, as a circular meter with moving bars requires you to time your start and also provides insight into your horse's condition. You can beat your horse, tap him, or show him the whip to get him moving. Pacing your horse is very important, as making him go too quickly at the beginning will leave him tired when he needs a final burst of speed to win.
As you wins races and increase your spending ability, you'll find yourself purchasing more horses and entering more races. Once you've got a stable of a few powerful and fast horses, you'll probably want to start breeding them to save on cost and to replace your aging and slowing horses. When breeding a horse, it will take on some of the attributes of the parent horses, and possibly some attributes from their parent horses. The game keeps track of several generations of ancestors for each horse, so you can take a look and make sure that your horse's offspring will have the best stats possible.
The main goal is to have your horse enter into the Field of Legend and win this series. To be able to get this far, you'll have to have proved yourself to be a formidable horse owner and racer on and off the track, having won several titles with a few of your horses. Outside of the Theme Park, there's also Simulation mode, which allows you to create your own horses and tracks, and a quick race mode, which allows you to just jump into horse racing action and take a few turns around the track. The most robust mode is definitely the Theme Park, though.
Gallop Racer 2006 makes no excuses for its subpar graphical capabilities. At the core, it's a horse simulation game, and as if to emphasize this point, the horses are the graphical showpieces of the game. They look good, they move realistically, and when the cut scene plays that shows them walking on the track on their way to the gate, and they are rearing back their heads, you really can appreciate how they look. During the race itself, they are animated nicely. The tracks themselves are nice, and there are a lot of them, but mostly they fade to the background and aren't too impressive. Unfortunately, you'll be staring at a menu screen for most of the time, and while it is colorful, it can be a bit confusing, with lots of numbers and letters and symbols.
If the visuals are sub-par, then the sound is a few bogeys behind them. You'll get your basic elevator music for the menus, and the race day sounds and music consist of the blowing of the trumpet and the stomp of horses' hooves as they race around the track. There is an announcer who doesn't contribute all that much to the experience, as he is not as exciting nor as familiar as the stereotypical horse racing announcers from the movies. Still, the sound could have been much worse, and it does serve its purpose even without a lot of flash.
There is a multiplayer mode, and players can pit their own horses against each other in a battle for world domination ... well, maybe not world domination, but the right to call yourself the owner of a digital Secretariat. Although multiplayer is provided, there is no online mode, which is unfortunate because the odds that you will have a friend or even know someone else who owns this game are astronomical. If you have friends who are as in to quirky horse simulation games as you are, you'll have a lot to do and a lot of competition ahead of you.
As engrossing and deep as Gallop Racer 2006 is, it's still a horse-racing simulation, after all. This severely limits the appeal of the game, as most people are probably more interested in managing a football franchise or a baseball team than a horse farm. However, if you're in the mood for something different or just happen to be a budding horse breeder, Gallop Racer 2006 might be the game for you. Just be prepared for a lot of stats and a lot of staring at a horse's backside. If you have a touch of equine blood running in your veins, Gallop Racer 2006 is calling to you.