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Road Trip

チョロQHG2

Developer: E-game Publisher: Conspiracy Entertainment
26 October 2002
Road Trip [チョロQHG2] - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.78 / 5.0
0.5
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32 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#3,527 All-time
#47 for 2002
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Releases 3
Filter by: All 3 PS2 3
2002 E-game Takara  
CD-ROM
JP 4 904880 138708 SLPM-62104
2002 E-game Conspiracy  
CD-ROM
XNA 8 15315 00027 6 SLUS-20398
2003 E-game Play It!  
CD-ROM
GB 5 060057 020180 SLES-51356
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Title
A Lesson in Licensed Games
In our nostalgia-addicted internet hell age, it has become something of a trend to unearth "hidden gems" on older consoles, forgotten relics supposedly robbed of their rightful place in the gaming canon, ready to be introduced to modern audiences through some obnoxious forty-minute YouTube video essay interrupted by eighteen ad breaks or, alternatively, through some twenty-paragraph Reddit post fishing for sweet, sweet upvotes (thanks for the gold, kind stranger!). Though this trend, despite my cynical characterizations, may originate from a genuine desire to ensure that gaming's history is not lost to time, it becomes difficult to take these modern-day digital-gold prospectors seriously when they unearth such "hidden gems" as Frogger: The Great Quest or Tom and Jerry in War of the Whiskers, games that kinda resemble "gems" if you're near-sighted and have cataracts and often mistake things that suck balls for gems. As each such terrible game is extracted from the bottom of the garbage pail and rebranded into a "hidden gem" for internet points, the label begins to lose its meaning—if even the most cynically designed cash-grab is a "hidden gem," then the truly creative and fun, obscure games—the actual hidden gems—remain just as buried and forgotten as they were upon release. It is for these reasons I remain ever-skeptical of the "hidden gem" label, especially as applied to licensed games, which often achieve high sales regardless of quality due to the popularity of the license itself. Few games are worthy of the "hidden gem" label—even fewer hidden gems are licensed games.

Nevertheless, despite my reservations, I took Road Trip for a spin on the recommendation of just such a "hidden gem" post online. I approached the "hidden gem" claim, as usual, with some skepticism—a licensed car game (pun intended; see my footnote below) with a bland, uninspiring title like "Road Trip" hardly seemed worthy of recognition. However, the recommendation was accompanied by a chorus of enthusiastic admirers, who praised the game's open world, vehicle customization options, and charming talking-car characters, and I was intrigued enough by the promise of an exploration-focused "CarPG" to check the game out for myself. And now that I'm on the other side of my virtual road trip, I find myself, for once, agreeing with the gem miners: Road Trip is a true diamond in the rough, a game oozing charm and personality, one that, despite some occasional game-design speed bumps (get it?), proves to be a detour worth taking (get it?).

While many of Road Trip's devotees label the game a "CarPG," the label is somewhat inaccurate—the game features no combat or leveling, no experience points or skill trees. However, the game does feature RPG-like progression and growth. Upon starting a new game, when players are plopped into Peach Town, one of many car-inhabited settlements in the world of Road Trip, they will initially loathe their glacially slow car with poor traction and stiff steering. But as they earn more of the game's currency (which, charmingly, you can name whatever you want—I named my currency "Poop" because, after staring at the TV for 15 minutes, I couldn't think of anything else), they can buy new parts to improve their car's attributes and dramatically speed up the racing experience. Although this progression is somewhat poorly balanced (the car's slow speed at the start makes the early races dull snail-crawls, while the late-game car parts trivialize most races), the transformation of your car over the course of the game from a boring, slow, four-door sedan into a rocket-powered flying car shaped like a rocking horse (or some other shape of your choosing) feels very gratifying.

However, the journey is a very gradual one—one that is much more poorly paced than it needed to be thanks to a hefty amount of grinding for cash. The best car parts cost exorbitant amounts of money, and the game presents very limited options for earning more currency: players can earn money by completing races, by driving around with a billboard attached to their car (which pays a certain amount per mile), or by gambling in a roulette mini-game. Of these options, roulette supplemented by an unhealthy dose of save-scumming is, by far, the fastest means of earning money, but even this solution is needlessly time-wasting and requires players to abuse the forgiving save system in an unnatural way—a better solution would have been to simply increase the payouts for winning races. Another questionable facet of the game's design that adds to the grind is the team-building mechanic, which requires players to recruit two other talking cars to race on their team before they can participate in the final grand prix, a requirement that essentially triples the amount of currency players must collect throughout the game, as they must gather new car parts for an additional two vehicles. Though the team-building mechanic does add a little more personality to the game's many NPCs (non-player cars), its glacial impact on the game's pacing counteracts whatever shallow benefits it provides. Players cannot meaningfully interact with their teammates during races or while exploring, and there is insufficient variation between each potential teammate's driving abilities to warrant any experimentation with your team's roster—pretty much any teammate will race well with the right parts equipped, so there's little reason to concern yourself with recruiting new cars.

Though the game suffers from uneven pacing and occasional grinding, Road Trip's varied world and side quests are consistently engaging to explore. There are multiple towns in Road Trip players can visit, from a Vegas-like desert metropolis, to an ancient Japanese castle town, to a village of floating sky islands connected by rainbow bridges, among others. Each location features charming characters and sidequests as well as a surprisingly wide variety of mini-games, each one testing players on a unique driving skill. A drag race mini-game tests players' speed, while the precarious Volcano Course mini-game tests players' precision-steering and cornering abilities. Another mini-game tests players' braking skills, while still another, perhaps my favorite, requires players to adapt to the quirks of Road Trip's utterly bizarre physics system (see below) to ascend the twisted, jagged level geometry of a rocky mountainside. There are many more mini-games in Road Trip—none are repetitious, and all are entertaining. As I played, the sheer variety of mini-games in Road Trip truly astounded me—not necessarily because the mini-games themselves were amazing, transcendent experiences (they are all good, some admittedly a bit shallow)—but because it proved that the developers invested a lot of careful thought and attention to detail into Road Trip's development. Where a lesser studio might have hastily assembled a handful of repetitive, overlapping mini-games to get its licensed cash-grab of a game out the door a little quicker, Road Trip's developer E-game took the time to assure that each mini-game served a unique purpose.

Throughout Road Trip, in fact, several little touches convey the high degree of care that E-game's team displayed during development. For instance, the stamp book, the game's version of a quest log, marks every completed quest with a unique stamp—there are thus 100 unique stamps in Road Trip's quest log. Though such a detail may appear minor, it represents precisely why Road Trip is so compelling—whereas a lesser game might have reused a generic stamp reading "COMPLETE" throughout its quest log, Road Trip, through its 100 unique stamp designs, injects some visual variety into its quest menu and recontextualizes it as a kind of travelogue-scrapbook that players assemble as they proceed through the game world helping other cars solve their problems. Thus, Road Trip transforms its quest log, an element of game design that is often standardized and taken for granted, into a vehicle (pun intended) for worldbuilding. This willingness to rethink the accepted wisdom of game design is the mark of a well-directed game (though, admittedly, it is not always the mark of a well-designed one).

Under the direction of Etsuhiro Wada, Road Trip takes several left turns where other games would turn right, embracing absurd yet fun design decisions to maximize player enjoyment. For instance, few directors would willingly implement a physics system as broken as Road Trip's into their own racing game. If you reach a high enough speed in Road Trip, your car will begin climbing up near-vertical walls, and a slight bump against any obstacle will send your car flying into the stratosphere. The physics are unquestionably broken—they are also unquestionably fun to mess around with. E-game clearly knew this, it turns out, as the reward for 100% completion is the Devil Parts, a collection of car parts that allows your vehicle to instantly accelerate to a frighteningly high speed and exploit the quirks of the physics system to your heart's content. When combined with the Jet Turbine and Flight Wing, the Devil Parts transform Road Trip's overworld into a playground in which players can experiment endlessly with the hilarious, barely functional physics and soar across large portions of the map with ease. Through its fun-maximizing approach to the car physics, Road Trip again ignores the rules of game design to its benefit—while the racing mechanics might technically have been improved had the physics been more grounded, director Wada opted not only to leave the unrealistic physics in the game but also to give players the very tools to exploit the physics system for themselves, effectively trading a more mechanically grounded experience for one that is far more ridiculous but also far more fun.

Though it may not always be mechanically "well-designed" due to its aforementioned pacing and balancing issues, if I could sum up Road Trip with a single phrase, I would use "lovingly designed." Etsuhiro Wada and E-game approached the task of developing a licensed racing game with a commitment to player enjoyment. The result is an atypical licensed game, one that refuses to ride its license into automatic high sales but instead prioritizes the player's experience over corporate enrichment. Wada has sadly not directed another game since this one, but I hope that his legacy will live on through Road Trip's strange but charming vision. Even if you are a hidden-gem skeptic like me, do yourself a favor and take Road Trip for a spin—this is one pit stop you won't forget (get it?).

Final rating: 4/5

***

*To those unfamiliar with Road Trip's development, the game may not appear licensed at all. However, in Japan, the game is known as "Choro-Q HG 2," with Choro-Q referring to what is essentially the Japanese version of Hot Wheels. While writing this review, I conducted a cursory investigation into the reasons for this name change during the game's localization and discovered that many Choro-Q games have been released in the west under a titling scheme so convoluted and ridiculous that I almost threw up while trying to wrap my head around it. For example, the PS2 game known as "Choro-Q HG 3" in Japan was localized in Europe as "Gadget Racers," but then, literally in the exact same year, a completely different PS2 Choro-Q game known as "Choro Q!" in Japan was again localized in Europe as "Gadget Racers." There are thus two completely different games in Europe that released on the exact same platform in the exact same year with the exact same title—the pride of man will be its ultimate destroyer.
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Title
"The best game ever made" - my brother
I was 7 years old; I had just received my first pocket money and I was looking at the used section of the local video game store with my dad. I was a big racing game fan, and naturally a game called "Road Trip Adventure", with its overblown cartoon cover, caught my eye. However, my dad warned me against it, and suggested that I buy Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy instead, so I did. I still trusted my gut however, and a couple weeks later, I went back and bought Road Trip Adventure.

This was one of the few childhood situations where I can say I knew better than my dad. Jak and Daxter wasn't my thing at all, and I dropped it after a few hours and never completed it. Road Trip Adventure, on the other hand, remains one of my favourite PS2 games to this day.

For those unfamiliar with the Choro-Q series, these were low-budget games developed primarily for Japanese audiences and based off the Choro-Q toy line. The toys are essentially high-quality cute recreations of real-life cars that you can roll back and launch. They're a popular collector's item in Japan, especially the ones that recreate JGTC/Super GT race cars. However, they never really expanded overseas, outside of low-quality knock-offs.

There were four Choro-Q HG games released for the PS1 and PS2, and this game, HG2, is often considered to be the best. As the series went on, the games became more and more narrative-driven, to the point where it becomes absolutely insane. The final game, ChoroQ [チョロQHG4], goes completely off the deep end, with a dream sequence intro showing a car exploding on the race track. Very strange tone choice for a game featuring cute miniature cars.

So, these games were (clumsily) localised for a Western audience and, despite HG2 receiving considerable critical praise, they quickly landed in the bargain bin. Their cult following lives on, however; look at the YouTube comment sections for The Push Kings's The Minute and you'll find hundreds singing their praises for this game. This game really connected with many people, myself included.

The game's story is very basic: the President of the Choro-Q universe wants to step down, so he offers his position to the winner of the World Grand Prix. You're given the objective of winning races and earning licences to be eligible to enter the World Grand Prix and beat the President in a one-on-one race. You'll need to use the prize money from races to upgrade your car with better parts, while also equipping the right parts for each race (off-road tyres on dirt tracks, for example).

The racing ends up being a minor part of the game, however. Once you're done with the short intro, you're free to explore the game's open world, with numerous cities, houses and secrets to discover. You can bump into other cars to exchange dialogue, sometimes even recruiting them to join your racing team. Most of the game is spent driving around the world and completing various side quests and mini-games for 'stamps'; there's 100 stamps to collect in total. The game is often referred to as a "car-PG" because of this.

This game is perhaps one of the best examples of 'greater than the sum of its parts' that I can think of. The game's graphics reside in an uncanny valley that's too detailed for PS1 but too bland for PS2, the music is either overly compressed or way too dry, and the dialogue is hilariously nonsensical at times. The driving can feel very clunky, especially in the early game where the car barely turns and picking up the 2x steering upgrade is a must. However, when you put all of these things together, it has an unmatched vibe.

A lot of this game's personality comes from the cars you'll meet. Many have very distinct and memorable personalities, especially the My City residents. Early in the game, you're given an apartment in My City and told to spread the word and find potential residents. This ends up being one of the more fun side objectives in the game, as the city slowly grows and takes on a life of its own. The nonsensical dialogue, likely due to poor localisation, does have a lot of charm.

Of course, there's also the music: there's two radio stations you can choose from while roaming. One station plays songs by The Push Kings and The Waking Hours on loop, while the other plays charming MIDI renditions by Michael Walthius (who was unfortunately uncredited). They're very lo-fi, but it adds to the vibe in my opinion. The in-race music is much more hit-or-miss; some are decent, but others feel a little too-over-the-top and cheesy in their dry MIDI soundbank form.

I have a difficult time justifying on paper why this game works so well; it simply has to be experienced. It's very easy for me to nitpick all the things this game does wrong, when very little of it actually matters when you're in the game and immersed in its universe. You'll never find a game quite like this one.
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Catalog

mbewe チョロQHG2 2024-05-22T01:12:40Z
2024-05-22T01:12:40Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Chocobo チョロQHG2 2024-04-24T23:34:59Z
2024-04-24T23:34:59Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
xtremedante Road Trip 2024-03-23T22:20:46Z
PS2 • XNA
2024-03-23T22:20:46Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
LowReader チョロQHG2 2024-03-23T15:32:32Z
2024-03-23T15:32:32Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eliottstaten チョロQHG2 2024-03-11T04:35:22Z
2024-03-11T04:35:22Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
nmkolp Road Trip 2024-02-22T13:50:02Z
PS2 • XNA
2024-02-22T13:50:02Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
interested
dolu チョロQHG2 2024-02-01T21:34:34Z
2024-02-01T21:34:34Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Magic8Ball チョロQHG2 2024-02-01T03:08:35Z
2024-02-01T03:08:35Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
todessehnsucht チョロQHG2 2024-01-27T16:22:44Z
2024-01-27T16:22:44Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
c2nj チョロQHG2 2024-01-18T16:23:00Z
2024-01-18T16:23:00Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
hevykofe チョロQHG2 2024-01-05T15:42:57Z
PS2 • JP
2024-01-05T15:42:57Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Triturate チョロQHG2 2024-01-03T09:54:44Z
2024-01-03T09:54:44Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: E
Player modes
1-2 players
Media
1x CD-ROM
Multiplayer options
Local
Franchises
Also known as
  • Road Trip
  • Road Trip Adventure
  • Choro Q High Grade 2
  • Everywhere Road Trip
  • View all [4] Hide

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  • Slime_Mage 2020-10-19 15:05:36.783706+00
    Most underrated PS2 game for my money
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  • shorespun 2021-05-09 02:24:47.990124+00
    masterpiece. one of the happiest parts of my childhood
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  • RarityBelle 2023-04-17 19:28:09.87551+00
    GOAT
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  • Magic8Ball 2024-02-01 09:12:02.453628+00
    great game but the music drives me crazy
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