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Gaming: Gear Club Unlimited 2 is Pokemon for petrolheads

Nintendo Switch racer offers compelling car collection but at a price

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Gear Club Unlimited 2 is an attempt to address the dearth of serious racing games on the Nintendo Switch. That’s not to say a multiplayer Mario Kart battle can’t get pretty serious, we just mean that here you’ll be controlling real cars rather than a cartoon mushroom on a two-stroke tea tray.

The original Gear Club debuted on mobile phones back in 2016, but the Switch’s ‘Unlimited’ versions, of which this is the second, are free from the constant nagging to open your wallet that plagues mobile games. Where this sequel differs from last year’s first attempt, though, is that it’s apparently built from the outset as a console game this time, rather than a tweaked version of the mobile money pit.

That means more cars, a vast amount of mileage to cover and, to our great surprise, a story. Actually, story might be too strong a word, but there’s a bizarre narrative thread that involves you desperately seeking validation from your stern, team boss father. They should have called it Karting Dads: The Game.

The Gran Turismo inspired collection element is, admittedly, just as compelling as it was in the moreish mobile version. This is very much Pokemon for petrolheads, as you gradually tune your existing vehicles and save up for increasingly potent supercars. There’s also proper online multiplayer racing on the way as part of a post-release update apparently, to accompany the four player split-screen that is so well suited to the Nintendo Switch’s detachable controllers.

On track, it’s extremely forgiving. Driving assists can be cranked up to the point the game’s practically playing itself and there’s a rewind function just in case the person sitting next to you on the bus elbows you during a particularly challenging left-right chicane. Turn off the various digital nannies and the raw handling model is a bit clumsy, but after a few laps of dramatically lunging at the scenery you’ll adjust to its quirks.

The really bad news, though? The game costs an eye-watering £45 brand new on Nintendo Switch and frankly it hasn’t distanced itself nearly enough from its mobile phone roots to justify that sort of outlay. This is a guilty pleasure hamburger with a fillet steak price tag.

That said, if you really do have a burning desire to introduce proper portable racing to your commute, your Sunday morning lie-in or, at a pinch, under the table during a boring meeting, Gear Club Unlimited 2 certainly does an adequate job. Just bear in mind it’ll charge almost as much per hour for that job as an emergency plumber on Christmas Day. Speaking of plumbers, anyone for Mario Kart?

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