G1 Jockey 4 PS2 Review

Along with Table Tennis, horseracing isn’t one of the more obvious sports to base a computer game on. In fact the only people who watch horseracing are those having a punt and aren’t really interested in the actual sport – should you find it within yourself to call it such.

The Japanese, however, love it. There are bundles of horseracing simulations available over there, and fits with their slightly bizarre take on what does or doesn’t make a decent game, rather than an odd one. KOEI’s G1 Jockey franchise is one of a tiny select that makes it here and we should at least be grateful for this minor mercy.

G1 Jockey 4 is immediately set apart not so much because of the way it plays or indeed the general quality of the title – bundled in with the game will come a ‘reigns controller’. You needn’t read it again, you got it right the first time. However it’s a bit much to call a piece of plastic with dipped thumb sections and rubber clasps to fit over the analogue sticks ‘reigns’. Still, once you’re actually playing it is quite convincing as you steer your horse round the track, guiding it with both thumbs as if holding actual leather reigns.

You do indeed steer the horse round the track; most of your time will be spent gauging when to make your horse accelerate (by pushing the ‘reigns’ forward) and when you hold him back to save energy (by pulling them back). Not exactly the most enthralling experience to be had, but about what you’d expect if you have even a modicum of horse racing knowledge. Unfortunately if you don’t then you might struggle to see the worth of watching an admittedly atheistically pleasing horse run round in a circle (albeit vast).

Outside the limited action there is a little more to be done. A certain level of management has been included that does entertain mildly. Most of it is centralised around the breeding and training from foal to stallion. Fortunately the game allows you to be as involved in this as you want to be and should you know nothing about breeding horses then there’s an in depth guide to help. Eventually you’ll get to the stage when you unleash your trained up horse on the racing stage and then see whether your work (or lack of it) was worth the effort (or lack of it).

Admittedly there is something addictive about managing a foal up to horse and then race it. There’s something compulsive about you taking the reigns and making your mark on the world’s racing stage. However it’s not really about this game specifically, more about this type of game in general. The fact is that you could put a skin on any game of this kind and it would be playable. Think Toca Race Driver series that saw you take control of the character and see his rise through the ranks. There’s something that appeals to our egotistical nature makes these games enjoyable and most addictive to play.

This does however mean that this specific game suffers as once the novelty wears off and the horses begin to look the same and training another one up seems like more of a chore than a whistle you’ll put it down and probably never think about it again.