Gear Club Unlimited, released today for the Switch, is a popular free-to-play mobile racing game transformed into a premium game. It's amazing the difference removing elements such as microtransactions, arbitrary timers and social sharing incentives makes.
The original Gear Club has been raking in that in-app purchase cash on iOS and Android for over a year, selling in-game gold and car packs to players eager to get further in the game faster. Eden Games, a studio known for racing titles such as Test Drive Unlimited and the V-Rally series, built a solid little mobile racer, packed with a nice variety of races and a prime selection of licensed vehicles. I've played the mobile version on and off for several months, and the urge to skip the engine upgrade timer to get back out on the track is strong in this one.
Gear Club mobile currently opens with an ad for the Gamevice, a device by a company that sued Nintendo over the Switch design.
But it's also frustrating to have to deal with timers, lust after vehicles that can only be purchased with premium currency, or constantly be encouraged to watch ads to double my rewards and spam my Facebook friends for extra gold. Well, Gear Club Unlimited gets rid of all that nonsense.
Here's a race winning screen from the mobile game:
Hooray for randomly-generated Google Play names.
And here's a race winning screen from Gear Club Unlimited on the Switch:
See the difference? No need to worry about sharing or doubling the take. Just a prompt to get on with more racing goodness.
Gear Club Unlimited does away with the premium currency of the mobile version. Players don't have to worry about collecting or buying gold bars to speed up timers or purchase special vehicles. It's all about those in-game credits now.
The drift-crazy Nissan 370Z, seen in the image atop this post, costs 100 gold bars in the mobile game. On the Switch, it costs 42,000 credits. I still can't afford it, but I'm only a few races away. Plus it looks a lot better in the Nissan Shop on the console. Check out that reflection and the depth-of-field blur going on in the background.
Not all elements of the game fared well in the transition from free-to-play mobile game to premium. The garage feature, which sees players building their own vehicle upgrade complex similar to the way a mobile strategy game incorporates base building, doesn't translate as well to the Switch version. Where the decorative items in the mobile game provided bonuses that reduce timer duration, the Switch doesn't have timers, so those items are now purely decorative.
In fact, the removal of timers makes the whole upgrade complex feel like an unnecessary feature that could easily be replaced with a series of menus. It's an odd echo of the free-to-play game that Gear Club Unlimited springs from.
The racing is nicer on the Switch, but that's the joy of having physical controls as opposed to a touchscreen. Being originally built for mobile, the races aren't too long or involved, but they're enjoyable enough. Gear Club Unlimited straddles the line between arcade and simulation, which for me is the sweet spot for a racing game.
Eden Games has transformed its mobile hit into a pleasant little discount Forza for the Switch. While some of the trappings of the free-to-play original remain, all of the annoyances are gone. It's like a $79.95 one-time fee to remove all the bullshit.
And I never had to look at this screen again.