PixelJunk has been very busy when it comes to developing games for the Playstation Network. All of their works are something completely unexpected. If you looked at PixelJunk Racers and expect it to be a straight racing game, you’d be mistaken: it’s actually a mini-game collection! The question is, “is it fun”? Read on to find out.
PixelJunk Racers is a “slot” car game. Your vehicle drives around a “one screen” track, and can move from left to right in 5 possible lanes. The controls are simple: hold L2 or R2 to accelerate, and press the direction buttons to change lanes. The beauty of this system is that anyone can pick it up and play! It also helps that Racers supports 7 players, and has a “party mode” feature that cycles through various sets of games. Most people would expect a title with the surname “Racers” to have a lot of actual stock racing in it. The truth is, only 1 of the game’s 16 unique mini-games offer a true racing experience.
Mini-games range from standard practice to extremely unique. For instance, there’s a game called “Sunday drivers”, where you have to drive as far as you can amidst incredibly slow traffic that frequently boxes you in. Outside of a few Mario Party mini-games over the years, these types of things really haven’t been done in mainstream games. It was actually refreshing to find out that there was more to do than just drive around. My favorite game in particular is based off of Ikaruga’s polarity change system, which has you changing colors to eliminate matching enemy cars. It’s games like these that really make PixelJunk Racers shine, but sometimes you’ll just want to hurl your controller at the wall in frustration.
Some of the game modes are extremely frustrating when playing them by yourself. Instead of simply competing with your friends for fun, you have to achieve specific goals to unlock more tracks. At first, you’ll just have to clear bronze in order to unlock the next level set, but eventually, you’ll need to complete an entire set with a silver ranking. The problem lies in the mechanics of some of the games, and the lack of instructions for them.
For example, one mini-game is called “Fireball Frenzy”. Racers simply tells you “pass cars to get a nitro boost”, but fails to tell you that when you receive said boost, you can actually keep boosting by running into enemy cars. You’d have no way of knowing this outside of trial and error.Also, you will find that on a great deal of attempts, there won’t be enough cars to pass in order to get a boost, and on other attempts, there will be more than enough. One attempt I simply held the accelarator down and recieved a silver medal. Another attempt I swerved out of the way of every car, and made a perfect run: but I barely made the bronze requirement. It can get really frustrating when you’re playing the single player game just to unlock more games to play with your friends.
Racers also could have learned a lot from retro titles like Super Sprint. The fun factor of the game would have greatly benefited from an arcade mode that featured pure racing levels. Sure, it’s fun playing mini-games with my friends, but playing them by myself is hardly as much fun. If there was a simple race mode I would be more inclined to go back and play it rather than coming back just for a “mini-game itch”. Sadly, there’s also no online support short of leaderboards.
PixelJunk’s signature art style shines through Racers. The game is optimized for HD TVs, so it looks beautiful on the proper video settings. While AI cars look very bland, you and your friend’s racers are extremely vibrant, especially when you turbo boost. Racer’s sounds also fit the game fairly well, even if there’s nothing exciting about them.
PixelJunk Racers has it’s flaws, but ultimately, its something different. Even though a few minor additions could have been made to increase the replay factor for solo-play, there are enough mini-games in it to keep you and your friends going for a while.
PixelJunk Racers looks very sleek, and the cars are extremely colorful.
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Some mini-games are better than others. The single player mode is not very fun, but you'll have a blast with multiplayer.
Other than the announcer that sounds like a Hydro Thunder knockoff, there isn't anything special to listen out for.
Online rankings and local 7 player multiplayer will have you coming back for a while. No online multiplayer is a shame, however.
PixelJunk Racers is a unique title that offers mindless mini-game fun.