Review: Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli (Nintendo DS)

Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli
Developer: Eutechnyx
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Racing
Release Date: August 26, 2008

Let’s face it: there are many of us who might not ever own a Ferrari. I would hazard to guess that at least 1 out of 15 of us will never own an Eye-talian sports car of any make.

Fewer still, maybe less than half, will ever compete in the Ferrari Challenge. This auto racing championship series was created fifteen years ago by a bunch of dudes who decided to race their 348 Berlinettas. They stress sportsmanship and clean gentlemanly racing. (This is opposed to NASCAR which was respectfully created by a bunch of moonshiners and bootleggers who understood that “rubbin”Ëœ is racin’.”)

This DS game is even more elite than that thing, for it is about the Trofeo Pirelli class of the Ferrari Challenge, which is for professional drivers only.

I have learned from this game, that I am distinctly not a professional driver.

1. Story / Modes
Imagine a world where international disputes are solved not by war, but by death races, in nitro-powered super cars, driven by genetically engineered capybaras who just got out of prison. That’s what I do when I play this game – I imagine that scenario. This game has no story, features no characters, nor does it at any time depict a human being. Well maybe there are some dots used to represent Germans in the grandstand.

It does however have modes, and I will show them to you as though they were my Pokemons.

A. Training – This mode is made up of a series of challenges. Sometimes you drive around an empty course while a voice yells things at you like “Brake point!” or “Accelerate!” Other times, it’s basically just a race with the option of having a line on the road telling you where you should be. With each of these challenges you have to get enough points to earn a trophy, in order to unlock the next challenge.

B. Race – This mode opens up into 3 sub modes.
i. Championship – You are given a challenge (e.g. finish in 6th place or higher on such and such course with preset conditions). Winning this thing will unlock the next challenge and so on.
ii. Practice – You select the course (8 to choose from provided they”Ëœre unlocked), the model car you are racing, how many laps (1-5), how many opponents (1-7), and opponent difficulty (easy, medium, hard, or expert).
iii. Time Trial – This thing, of course, is the same as practice, except there are no other cars and you race around the track until you feel like stopping.

C. Versus – This is our multi-player mode. It supports single card and multi-card play.

D. Challenge cards – This is a weird little mode wherein you have a deck of Ferrari trading cards. Each card has a specific Ferrari on it, and it lists its engine size, cost, horsepower and such. You play against another person or the computer. Each person has a card. The first player picks one of the categories, and the person with the higher value of that category on his or her card wins the other players card. He or she also gets to pick the category for the next turn. The cards have nice pictures on them, and are informative in a gearhead sort of way. I couldn’t care less about this mode.

2. Graphics
The pictures on those strange Ferrari combat cards are nice, but the majority of the gameplay resembles something out of a N64 cartridge. Oddly enough, the cars look considerably more convincing in the rearview and during the post-race replay than in the standard view.

3. Sound
There are TWO, count them, TWO songs in this game: the main menu theme and the challenge card theme. Neither is memorable. Other than that we get engine noise, and occasional tire squeak and the aforementioned “Brake now!” guy. The “Brake now!” guy sounds a bit garbled, almost as bad as the old “Final Lap!” guy in the Genesis game Super Monaco GP.

4. Control / Gameplay
Shockingly, the A button accelerates, the B button brakes, and the D-pad steers. (Wait. . . . what’s the opposite of shocking?) If you choose a manual transmission, L and R downshift and up-shift. The instruction manual gets this last part wrong, and says that the D-pad does the shifting. It does not.

For some reason, you can shift the car into neutral. It’s entirely useless, but I guess it adds to the realism.

You are given the option of a “left-handed” control scheme, which swaps the d-pad’s functions with its A B X Y button equivalent.

The steering is odd. It feels more like moving left and right on the track than actually steering a vehicle. It’s hard to turn the car, really hard to drift, and (as near as I can tell) impossible to spin out. The brakes aren’t very responsive; I had to check the manual to make sure that I was pushing the right button.

I am entirely incapable of keeping a Ferrari out of the grass for an entire race. This thing frustrates me.

5. Replayability
Playing the game unlocks more game. At the start, pretty much everything is locked. You need to unlock the tutorials, the championships, the courses, difficulty settings, challenge cards, and so on. There are a bunch of things to do, and I cannot imagine there are many folk that will be able to unlock everything very quickly because. . .

6. Balance
. . . this game is impossible. Well, not really impossible. It’s not as hard as eating the sun. Ferrari Challenge is, however, the most difficult racing game I’ve played since the days of the Sega Genesis. It is unforgiving. I’ve been playing this freaking game for a week, and have not yet unlocked the training mode’s MEDIUM difficulty setting, let alone the HARD or EXPERT.

To reiterate, I cannot beat the TRAINING MODE on EASY.

I can do a practice race on the more difficult settings. Near as I can tell, the difficulty setting affects only the top speed of your competitors, and not your ability to keep the freaking car out of the grass. (There is, therefore, no difficulty adjustment for the time trials.)

This game is insanely difficult. I cannot get through a hairpin turn without braking to a crawl. The S-curve might as well be labeled “here is where your car hits a wall.”

The game is far too difficult for me. I imagine that to unlock the expert setting requires cybernetic implants.

7. Originality
Apart from the odd card game, this plays like any number of racing games from the 8-bit to 16-bit generations.

8. Addictiveness
I find this game to be no fun. I cannot keep my car on the track, which is bad enough. On top of that, I can’t even have fun crashing. I cannot wreck the car, or spin out, or flip the dang thing over or shoot mud into the air when I’m sliding through the grass. I can’t wreck the other cars either as the Ferrari Challenge is a gentlemen’s racing league. Gah!

9. Appeal Factor
People like Ferraris.

Luigi follow only the Ferraris.

10. Miscellaneous
This game is an odd duck. You can choose the color and the number of your car, but the default perspective is a bumper cam. You can’t see your car unless you switch to the rearview perspective. The rearview perspective pretty much just shows the front of your car and seems to serve no practical function, since there are two displays on the bottom screen that show where cars are in relation to you.

The bottom screen is maggoty with questionably useful displays.

The roster of games produced by Eutechnyx, reads like a who’s who of bad racing games. (A what’s what? I said: “”What what, in the butt”?)

The Scores:
Modes: Decent
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Poor
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Below Average
Final Score: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
If you are a casual gamer, this game is definitely not for you. This game will beat you down. If you are a diehard Ferrari fan, or looking for a challenging racing game on the DS, Ferrari Challenge might just be right for you. It is certainly not right for me. I’m rubbish at this game. It hates me.

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