Super Pixel Racers takes racing back to its roots of simplicity, and, for better and for worse, it kind of works in the game’s favor. That’s not to say that it’s a faultless experience, on the contrary, there’s a few issues that cant be ignored, but for the most part, it does well to scratch that fast-paced arcade racing itch. The game is served as an accessible top-down nostalgic pixel racer, in which gamers will take to the fields of play and burn rubber across a decent selection of maps that are spread across a healthy serving of varying modes.
Upon startup you’re free to dive into much of what’s on offer, with the only exception being some gated class races and cups in the career mode. There’s a free race mode that allows players to gel with the handling, and outside of that, you can either enjoy some four player local multiplayer or hit the online multiplayer, for up to eight players. The game allows you to customize a range of settings too, such as the difficulty of the overall experience. Simple stuff, indeed, but to be fair to the game, it’s not trying to be anything more than it is.
I will note that, despite my several efforts, I was unable to find a single match online. Hell, I couldn’t even find another player, let alone a full lobby. The game is only a day old at the time of writing, so some may argue that it needs some time to populate, however, I cant see that being the case at all. The game’s promotion has hardly been strong, so it’s quite likely that this has flew under the radar for many. It’s a shame because its online component would have been fun to hit up. Let’s hope it fills over time, though I do have my doubts.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to play with gamers that share your room, you’ll be glad to know that its local multiplayer offering is robust enough to see you through. It hardly goes above and beyond, but in the face of its devoid online population, it’s a worthy addition. The campaign is where the meat of the matter is found. Here, the game is split into several classes and cups. To begin with, you only have access to the slow-assed C Class, but once you’re done there, the rest of the faster classes do indeed gradually start to open up.
There’s also a “Plus” variant for each class; C Class and C class Plus, B Class and B Class Plus, and finally, A Class and A Class Plus. The cup races remain locked until further progression is made, encompassing; Rookie Cups, Pro Cups and Master Cups. Safe to say, there’s no shortage of fast-paced racing action to tap into. That said, this is where my first gripe, outside of the empty multiplayer, comes into view. Super Pixel Racers, despite its somewhat decent variation, becomes either too repetitive or too frustrating later on in the game.
Each mode entails a number of race types. There’s Rally Cross, Time Trial, Takedown, Drift Show and more. The problem, however, is that the simplistic gameplay just gets too stale before long. Furthermore, the game’s AI becomes unfairly relentless throughout the second half of the game. Several times was I taken out of commission due to the T-1000 AI. This alone wouldn’t be so terrible, but given that they seem biased to damaging the player above one another, it can oftentimes feel like you’re in the middle of pixel vehicular warfare.
When they’re not bashing the hell out of you in pretty much each race type, they’ll have skills that demand a great deal of perseverance to even match. Now, I wont hold this against the game, because I feel as though that’s the intended design rather than an oversight, but there’s certainly some tuning that needs doing if it wants to appeal to the casual gamer. There’s also some overly strict objectives that you’re required to meet early on, such as the game’s Time Trials; being that the times can be quite taxing to defeat.
Regardless, and as it stands, Super Pixel Racers is a racer that expects your level best. There’s minimal room for error, and I think it’s important that we call that out. That in mind, if you enjoy something more hardcore than your bog-standard racer, this has you covered. To the game’s credit, it’s a very fast and enjoyable experience when it wants to be. Though, as alluded to above, repetition tends to break through before too long. There’s a lot of content to work through here and for its generous price, you cant bash the game for that.
I quite liked its variation too. Especially Takedown, which has you purposely bashing your opposition to score points per-wreck. Rally Cross is, as described, a simple race for first place across a number of laps. Then there’s Time Trial, which sees you racing a number of laps to beat one overall time. Drift is self explanatory, consisting of little more than drifting your car to a timer in the hopes of scoring the required points before the clock hits zero. There’s more to the game than meets the eye, that’s for sure. But, it does feel long-winded.
After just my second class I began to feel burnt out. Sure, playing in infrequent short bursts might alleviate this to some degree, but I get the feeling that the developers have higher hopes for their otherwise impressive racer. I want to make clear, Super Pixel Racers is by no means a bad game. I’ve been slightly negative about it so far, but then, I’m a casual gamer that enjoys casual racing games. That’s what I was expecting to find here, so to find something that starts casual and quickly jumps to hardcore, is understandably disconcerting.
To its credit, Super Pixel Racers is very easy to gel with and understand. There’s two control modes to take to; pointing mode and classic mode. The difference between each layout is that the former’s handling is considered easier, whereas the latter is more retro. In pointing mode, moving the left stick will point your vehicle in the desired direction, though in classic mode, it turns the vehicle itself. Either option will produce fluid handling, with only drifting and nitro activation left to utilize via the A and B button, respectively. Very easy stuff.
The game’s handling is spot on once you bond with the foundation, affording you all the accuracy you need to achieve first place. There’s some added depth that feeds into this, found over in the garage prior to each race. You’re always given one class-specific vehicle to start with, and by using this to participate in the game’s career, you’ll earn currency that can be spent on upgrading cars or buying new ones. The game’s cars all come with their on distinct attributes, spanning top speed, acceleration, nitro and finally, durability.
It can be a slog to upgrade a car to its max, but believe me, you can truly feel the difference between an upgraded car and its standard version. You can also paint your car in a range of different presets. Game changing, no, but a fun twist all the same. If it’s not been made clear already, my time with Super Pixel Racers has been bitter sweet. I’ve had my high moments and my low moments. Though, overall, I can safely say that this is a recommended racer. It manages to achieve much of what it set out to accomplish.
I do think there’s a few design issues that could do with some refinements, such as the amount of time needed to constantly waggle the left stick to self-repair when wrecked, but all in all, there’s not a great deal to scoff about. The game looks and sounds great, which is further heightened by its various maps (spanning several locations and themes) that do well at keeping things feeling fresh. The same can be said about the level of detail within and its visual effects, collectively going hand in glove to solidify the game’s alluring presentation.
Super Pixel Racers offers a fairly diverse and accessible top-down racing experience. There’s a harsh difficulty spike later on in the game that makes it somewhat harder to recommend to the casuals. However, overlooking both that and the already dead online multiplayer, it’s hard not to appreciate the game for its depth, its fast pace, and its simple yet alluring concept.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.