In the words of an ancient meme, I love horses. What's more, after three years of working freelance in a home office dungeon, I've developed a flutter fixation. I have a Paddy Power account (other holes to pour your money into are available) that seeps small change to every ebb and flow of John McCririck.
Tecmo Koei knows this. It's seen deep into my lonely Ladbrokes heart, and now they think that they can push me one step nearer to the abyss. First off, they think they can get me to drag my coffee table into the kitchen to make enough space to get Kinect running. Secondly, they think they can turn me into this man…
Champion Jockey, you see, is the latest rendition of the G1 Jockey series - albeit newly monikered and repackaged to give it a degree of extra sway in the UK and Irish horseracing heartlands. You can play it whatever your motion control poison (Kinect, Move or Wii) although traditionalists can of course moodily finger their pads if they'd rather stay sofa-bound. The motion controls certainly make you look like a gargantuan tit - specifically, some sort of failed equestrian children's entertainer - but let it not be said that they don't slot neatly into the game.
On all three platforms the basics are the same. Pulling your left or right hand back on the imaginary reins attached will direct your nag in the relevant direction - while rhythmic 'giddy up' hand motions will ensure it keeps the speed up. For that final burst of speed, meanwhile, a vigorous spanking motion with your right arm is all the encouragement your horse needs in the final furlong.
If you win you can even cheekily raise your right arm as a victory sign, although it remains unconfirmed that should your steed suffer an injury your Kinect will understand your intentions when you move your arms to clutch an imaginary shotgun.
This is very much a game series that Tecmo Koei is intent on stabling deep within the European psyche. As such you can expect the game to reflect our nation's insistence on making expensive animals leap over fences and trample their riders underfoot.
"The biggest difference between Japanese horse racing and Europe is that here you're used to the steeplechase," underlines game director Yasumasa Koshikari, "Japanese courses tend to be flat." To counter this, then, in many European races you'll be able to sail over obstacles while perched in your virtual saddle - on Kinect by crouching and then bouncing up at the demanded time, or with Move by holding down the button on your Move controllers and deftly flicking upwards. You'll look a prize tool when you do either, however, so remember to shut the curtains.
Despite our country's love of pissing pound coins up the wall of the local William Hill (remarkably while keeping one eye on the fruit machine that may or may not be ready to drop) those who'd like a simulated flutter will have to go elsewhere.
"Horseracing is one of the very few legalised forms of gambling in Japan - so a lot of people are really into horse racing," explained Koshikari at Champion Jockey's recent press event while your correspondent gambled his commission cash away at the Windsor races. "At the same time, there's a large group of people set against it - because of that gambling factor. We wanted to emphasise horse racing as a good sport, rather than the gambling. That's why I wanted to eliminate the gambling side from it."
Champion Jockey is, then, a game that focuses solely on your career as a small excitable Irishman and the horse-based world that surrounds him. As such, away from the game's main course of Holy Grail-esque clip-clop horse-miming, you'll have the roles of Breeders, Owners and Trainers to consider too.
There's also a notable focus on the talents of the beasts themselves. You'll develop your race tactics with the capabilities of your steed in mind - choosing your moment for the final spurt depending on its stamina, for example, and making sure you've selected the right horse for the right sort of race.
With this iteration, however, you won't be able to harness any longstanding dreams of riding the winner in the Grand National or participating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. For now at least Champion Jockey is taking the Pro Evolution Soccer run up to licensing. Despite clear research being done into stands and lay-outs the actual names of race courses, meetings and individual competitions will be somewhat glossed over. If Aintree is be known as Liverpool and Ascot called something like Royal Berkshire then don't be surprised.
Could this game truly staple a fresh genre onto our collective sports game consciousness though? One worry is the game's accessibility. This is a Kinect game and a family orientated game - but the screens, fonts and general UI look like they've been copied and pasted directly from a Dynasty Warriors title. For a game that has split-screen multiplayer which essentially asks you to participate in bouts of climactic air-spanking, the look and feel of Champion Jockey is markedly hardcore.
The excision of the betting world, meanwhile, is also jarring for anyone who doesn't have difficulty in visualising the look of the scuffs and crumpled betting slips on the floor of their local Ladbrokes.
With Western gaming still going through a golden age of horse material (Assassin's Creed, Red Dead Redemption et al.) and the Japanese past-masters of the discipline in the likes of Shadow of the Colossus, it's also something of a shame to say that Champion Jockey's nags aren't exactly the most realistic beasts ever committed to flat-screen either. What's more, steeplechases especially are about drama, noise and a degree of unpredictably and chaos - none of which really shows through in Champion Jockey's smooth-edged rendition of it.
I personally would dearly love a horseracing game packed full of Euphoria physics animations, dirt flung at the screen and the brays and trumpets of rich people as you thunder over the finish line. Champion Jockey doesn't appear to be that game, but I dearly hope it does enough to maintain a hoof-hold that'll ensure yearly releases, licenses and improvements. That doesn't mean you should put money on it though…