Gameplay: The gameplay is very similar to the other games of the same genre. You have something(s) that require stats to be boosted and through a few keystrokes and "tests to see if the boosting happens", you'll see if your something(s) get better. Then you take those something(s) as a whole and put them in a test to see if they beat other people's (computer controlled) something(s). In this game it's race cars and you have to see if the parts you upgrade, research and implement create better race cars than your opponents.
The Appeal: Where the game strikes a chord with me is kind of like a "God sim" game where you essentially have the power to bestow upon your minions (race cars, in this case) powers and abilities and then place them in a test to see how they do. It's like raising a virtual pet in a way. You hope that all the gifts you have bestowed upon your people are not wasted and that they can achieve everything to their highest potential. That's where the appeal lies. I found myself clicking away, watching progress bars fill and stats increase for hours on end. And all for what? For the sake of seeing if they can get first place on a racetrack in some random country.
There's something very fulfilling seeing these race cars make their way to first place. It's even more fulfilling knowing that you can't directly control the race cars (which seems counterintuitive). It's not up to how good you are a gamer per se, what with your fancy joysticks and inverted y-axis and finger dexterity. It's about your planning! Were your stats good enough? If not, it's time to go back to the drawing board. That in itself is what makes it so enjoyable. You really do find yourself spending so much time without even knowing it.
Compared to the Others: Outside of Game Dev Story, only because I'm a big gamer, I think this is my next favorite one. I think the main reason is that it was much easier to get into than Pocket Academy and you felt like you made a lot more progress with fewer clicks than Mega Mall Story. And even though all of the games in the series utilize computer controlled something(s), this one made it feel like you actually had more control since you were actually tuning/editing the race cars themselves. The games you made in Game Dev Story were really at the mercy of your development team and you never could really control where the students or people were going in Pocket Academy or Mega Mall Story. And while the race cars stats are still at the mercy of your mechanics, you still have options of swapping out parts (as said earlier) which can really affect the outcome of your next race.
It's also 25% off right now for a limited time! That's $2.99 for those in the states.
Conclusion: Is this game worth brown bagging your lunch for one day instead of buying that Big Mac meal? You bet your greasy fingers it is. Go buy it and I'll see you on the racetrack. I'll be in the pink Prototype car, slamming wildly into tires on the side of the racetrack.
Purchase: Grand Prix Story - Kairosoft Co.,Ltd on iTunes