Racing is not something many people think of when it comes to Nintendo gaming. Mario Kart, is one of the few games that stands out in that category. While there have been a few Need for Speed and Cruisin’ games on past Nintendo consoles, other systems seem to keep getting new versions and have even more authentic racing franchises like Gran Turismo and Forza. Even mobile gaming has games like Asphalt and Real Racing. Eden Games realized this and decided to bring what they are calling an “authentic world of cars” to the Nintendo Switch in the form of Gear.Club Unlimited. The final product is a worthwhile effort with quite a few positives, but there are definitely aspects that could improve if they embark upon a sequel.
Gear.Club offers over 400 races across many different environments. Progression is fairly standard. As you win races and tournaments, you earn cash and unlock additional races, car parts, and upgrades. In addition to missions, you can also unlock achievements for more cash and bragging rights of 100% completion. With quite a bit to do and unlock, Gear.Club does have a very high replay value.
If a game is going to call itself authentic, graphics should be at the top of the priority list during development. The cars in Gear.Club do look very good. The designs are reminiscent of their real-life counterparts, and the lighting effects make them look even better both when the camera pans by and when you are racing along at top speeds. In fact, the cars are probably some of the best I have seen on a Nintendo system. The environments, however, are more cartoon-like, even looking like they were originally made for the GameCube era. Sure, they are in high definition, but the textures and lighting make your fancy cars look out of place.
I know this is a preference, but I do wish there were more than just two viewing options when racing. You have a third-person view that is fairly tight on the car, and you have a first-person view from the hood of the car. It would have been nice to have an inside-the-car view like many other games have, but my main gripe is there is no wider third-person view. This makes it tough to steer through traffic and winding roads. As I said, I know this comes down to preference, but it would have been nice to have more options for those different preferences.
Control is incredibly important in the racing genre, and Gear.Club seems to understand that. In fact, the only limitations I found were with the Nintendo Switch, itself. While I loved steering with the Pro Controller, I found it more difficult to navigate tight corners with the Joy-Con analog stick. I would have also preferred an analog acceleration. When you only have the choice of the gas pedal all the way down or nothing at all, it makes driving more difficult. Yes, this could be attributed to Nintendo’s controller design, but more precise acceleration could have also been assigned to the right analog stick. Here’s hoping there is an eventual steering wheel accessory for Nintendo Switch with analog hand or foot pedals.
Speaking of control, it’s important that we talk menu navigation. Unfortunately, this is where Gear.Club is seriously lacking. From the very beginning, you are faced with an option to play multiplayer or go into the main campaign. It almost seems like there are two games in one here. When you get to the main menu, instead of moving a selection box, you control a pointer with the left analog stick. The reason, I am sure, is to show how big the map is, but it just gets clunky. On top of that, you can only move the pointer to places on the map, and not the entire screen. For everything else you want to access, you will use the controller buttons. When you get into events, leagues, and your performance shop, the controls seem to get even worse. If you’re going to play this game, just realize this is a necessary hazard.
Now, about that performance shop… Here is where Gear.Club gives you a little too much RPG-like elements. For starters, you have to build and design it. Basically everything in this game costs money (in-game currency), so when you want to change the paint on your car or upgrade its tires, you have to buy and then construct the necessary booth in your shop. Then you have to upgrade it in order to do more to your car. You even have to select and move your car from one bay to the next in order to complete different upgrades. Alone, all this does not sound terribly awful, but there is a line when it comes to so-called authentic racing. I don’t want to spend my time manually buying, designing, building, and upgrading my shop. I just want to get the upgraded gear and get back to racing.
While there are so many fun races in the main game, I was really looking forward to competing online. In fact, I am still looking to compete online. Unfortunately, the only online mode is basically a time-trial mode, which is fairly solid, but limited to one race at a time (and again, has a clunky menu). There is no way to compete in head-to-head races online, which I think is a huge omission. With that being said, you do have the option of competing with others via split-screen or via local wireless with another Switch. Both of these are great additions, and I look forward to more local competition, but it would have been better if I could race against my friends who live in other towns, states, or countries.
Gear.Club Unlimited is a solid racing game with a ton of content and a huge selection of cars. I really have had fun playing the game. In the end, though, it seems like it is missing a good chunk of the polish more seasoned racing games have. Standing alone, it’s a decent game that will keep racing fans entertained. When compared to others, it has quite a bit to learn. As a first go, it is nice to see developers put some solid effort into the racing genre on a Nintendo system. Here’s hoping this is not the last, and that the next Gear.Club game learns from its mistakes and keeps pushing the genre forward for Nintendo fans.
Note: All in-game videos and screenshots, except for the featured image and the multiplayer one, were taken on my own Switch during early play-throughs of the game.
GAME: Gear.Club Unlimited
ESRB: Rated E for Everyone
DEVELOPER: Eden Games
OBTAINED: Review code from Microïds and Eden Games