Gotcha Racing is about as simple as racing games come, but it's far more addictive than most. The concept is derived from Japan's Gachapon capsule toys — small, highly collectible toys that usually go for about 100 yen apiece. It's this concept that drives the heart of the game.
When you first start Gotcha Racing you'll be prompted to create your own car. To do this you get three free turns at the capsule machine, each yielding one of your car's three critical components. The three main components of Gotcha Racing's capsule cars are a body, an engine, and tires; each component of your car has several stats to it that affect your car's top speed, acceleration, cornering and drifting ability among other things. If you're unhappy with what receive from the get-go, you can "re-roll" until you find a combination you like.
The default car you receive should be enough to handle the first race or two, but you'll quickly want to invest in more capsules to upgrade your car. To do that, you'll need coins; these can be earned by placing between first and fifth in a race. Depending on the type of race you'll net more coins. For instance, coming in first in the Beginner's Grand Prix will net you 800 coins, good for several turns on the capsule machine.
Races take place in a simple, top-down view reminiscent of retro classics like R.C. Pro-Am or Micro Machines. Both screens are used to display the action in Gotcha Racing, with your car on the bottom screen and the track ahead scrolling on the 3DS's top display. The graphics are simple but clean and pleasing to the eye, and the simple racing mechanics are a joy.
This is a two-button racer, with B handling braking and A handling acceleration. The game places importance on arcade-style drifting mechanics as well, which is critical for passing opponents in tight corners. Drifting is accomplished simply enough, with a quick tap on the brake followed by accelerating through the turn, then straightening your car back out to end the drift.
Aside from the six grades, each of which leads to a grand prix, Gotcha Racing also sports a time attack mode which lets you tackle any of the game's 12 tracks to make and break your own personal records. If you carry your 3DS with you, you can also engage in Streetpass races with players you come across; these races yield exclusive rewards in the form of car upgrades.
In addition to using your race winnings to get new parts, you can also use the 3DS's play coins to purchase special rare parts from a separate machines. These parts often are of higher quality than what's available in the regular capsule machine. If you hit a wall and can't seem to find that part you need, you can combine parts to improve their stats as well - each part has a set number of times it can be combined, which is displayed on its stat page.
In addition to the three basic car parts, you also have a chance of obtaining a number of accessories. Accessories are different in the sense that they can only be equipped on certain car bodies that have enough slots for them. Each accessory occupies a single slot, but there's a catch in that each accessory comes with a set number of uses, breaking after their time is up. Most accessories give a sizeable boost to your car's stats, but need to be used strategically.
Despite its cute, toy-like aesthetic, Gotcha Racing is a highly strategic game. You'll need to frequently retool your car to match the race at hand. It's important to consider how well your car can handle the track you're on, as well as the types of cars you're up against in any given race; you'll find yourself heading back to the garage and swapping parts and accessories frequently. Of course, you may not have the parts you need, which means you'll either have to replay old races to earn more coins or spend some play coins.
Gotcha Racing's winning formula is an endless loop of loss followed by iteration and improvement. Every loss is a motivation to make your car good enough to take down your competition. Races are also short affairs, which make them a perfect fit for the 3DS - Gotcha Racing is the perfect kind of game to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time throughout the day.
Gotcha Racing is a deceptively complex, addicting racer with a maddeningly addictive collection and upgrade system. Iterating on your car to make it the best it can be is an endless, joyful pursuit. It distills the most complex elements of sim-style racers down into a simple, enjoyable formula that works on every level.