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PS2 Preview - 'ChoroQ'

by Geson Hatchett on Oct. 24, 2004 @ 1:59 a.m. PDT

The ChoroQ brand and toy line--also known as Penny Racers in the U.S.—has its own long-running series of games, and this iteration is by far the most refined. Developed by Takara, ChoroQ is combination of a fantasy style racer with the depth and story of a traditional role playing game, using an updated graphical engine, containing more cars, parts and extras than any previous version.

Genre: Racing
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Takara
Release Date: November 1, 2004

You know, I'm still not sure whether or not there are actually people in these things.

The cars, I mean.

I don't think there are.

The cars may as well be alive. They spin in place, all live in houses large enough to accommodate them, and talk to each other by getting into collision accidents. They also have rivals, backstories, and strange, disturbed dreams, and settle their disagreements by seeing who's the fastest. Whoever is the fastest is the smartest, and the best. For a car, this makes sense, and it also makes one wonder.

Am I looking through some odd mystical window, gazing into the secret life of automobiles? Is this what our own cars would act like if left to their own vices?
Do they have affairs? Do they attend public schools? Where do minivans come from? The Car Stork, as people have always told us, or… somewhere else?

It boggles the mind and stirs the soul. The colors, man... the colors.

There's no contesting it: ChoroQ is made out of cars which are made out of people which are made out of… Square-Enix refugees, apparently.

Okay! If you've made it through those above paragraphs and are still with me, then congratulations. ChoroQ won't melt your brain. Much. Even if it does, it'll still prove to be charming as all heck. This title is an embodiment of the "Japanese quirk" factor of games like Katamari Damacy, taken to the other side of the spectrum – the side we usually expect to see. It's the side where everything is so confusing, yet simultaneously so simplistic, that it's impossible not to warm oneself up to, given enough time.

The story of ChoroQ is this: you are a car. (Yes, you, I didn't stutter; the game uses your entered name throughout.) You're a car from a small town which consists entirely of cars, all of which work and play together, gossip, and sometimes mouth off at you. You have a friendly rival who you'll eventually meet in the world's Grand Prix. Also, along the way, if you're lucky, you might get to unravel the mystery of a great racer who disappeared somehow, and find out what his (her? its?) connection is to the world of the present day.

Until then, though, you'll get the chance to truly play the role of a heroic car – an automotive protagonist, if you will. Indeed, the game's been dubbed a "Car-PG" for several reasons. You'll get to interact with other cars, partake in races, win upgrades for your car, and unravel more of the underlying story. You'll meet other cars with personalities, while developing one of your own. You'll follow tips from letters, do Internet shopping, and join up with and represent cliques and teams in races. Heck, the game seems to hold every console role-playing ingredient, short of leveling up and having white numbers appear over the cars' heads. Most of all, you'll be experiencing a combination of genres which, while bizarre, will leave you intrigued and wondering just where the wackiness will go next.

The game's mainly meant for the younger set, which is evidenced by the game's overall atmosphere. A broad color palette, rounded polygon shapes and large yet sparse text blocks stress ease of play and visibility. Also, there is little in the way of a sense of speed during races, so as not to be too overbearing. Races take place in a variety of locales, from your standard asphalt track to deserts to jungles to psycheledelic roadscapes with flashing lights and shapes. Meanwhile, the game's soundtrack has a decidedly cutesy air about it, which serves to soothe the player, and rarely reaches the point of annoyance.

Even though aimed at the younger demographic, ChoroQ still demonstrates hallmarks of some of today's more advanced games. Time management, for example, is key; you play, race, and do your exploring in simulated timeframes, Shenmue-style. As time passes, you'll drive around town amidst both daytime and nighttime landscapes, signifying the cycle of the day. Also, you can choose to spend as much time in activities during a certain month as possible, or skip as many as you wish.

The preview build only allowed exploration of the main city and participation in a number of races, but even with what was shown, ChoroQ's potential and scope is already quite apparent. This is set as a $19.99 budget title to be released on November 1st, and even though it probably won't be for everyone, there will be a lot more people who will be able to appreciate it than most might think.

Because it's just so darned cute.

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