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3D Pixel Racing - WiiWare Review

Game Info
3D Pixel Racing

WiiWare | Microforum | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Wii Wheel
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5th September 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

As a throwback to classic games, 3D Pixel Racing does well right away. Just one look at the screenshots for the game will likely convince you of that fact. Even better, the game manages to retain a modern feel, so it doesn't get lost in what it sets out to do. Or does it? On first glance, you might conclude that this is a fun racer with a whole lot of personality, but the more you play, the more you realize that the presentation is just about the only clear area where the developers did relatively well.
3D Pixel Racing features a host of design flaws that nearly cripple the entire experience.

    Mode selection in 3D Pixel Racing is pretty standard, including a five-level Championship, a Single Race option, Time Trials, and a Settings menu. But aside from the main stuff, there are also two additional modes that help add some variety to the normal racing -- Capture the Flag and Hot Pursuit. In each mode, you choose from seven different cars, each with their own attributes under the categories of Speed, Handling and Grip. After choosing the car you'd like to race with, you select from a palette of colours to apply a swatch to your chosen vehicle, and then pick a driver from a handful of characters. Before long, you'll be heading out to the start line.

The game is played using the Wii Remote in a horizontal fashion, either on its own or with the Wii Wheel peripheral. Steering is tilt-based, while the 2 Button is used for acceleration and the 1 Button to control braking. When using manual transmission, the A and B Buttons are used to shift gears down and up respectively. In some modes like Time Trials, you'll get to use Turbo boosts by pressing the Plus Button, and while driving at night, you can activate your car's high beams with the Minus Button -- an interesting option to be sure. 

    The D-Pad is for changing the camera angle to more interesting vantage points, some of which make it look like you're controlling a replay movie. Obviously, controlling in these areas -- specifically when it comes to making turns -- becomes more difficult, so I can't see why anyone would stick with this. This leads nicely to my next point: controlling cars in general doesn't feel right.

    Across all vehicles I tested out, the handling can be described as slippery. Cornering in this game isn't a simple curve around the bend, but a brake-and-turn type of process. Cars aren't quick to bounce back after this, though, making tracks with lots of curves kind of slow to navigate. Gradually, though, you begin to accept the system for what it is and instead of feeling like it's totally off, you start to get the impression that there was purposeful intent behind the way the controls work. So I wouldn't go so far as to say the controls are bad, but they're not user-friendly either.

Compared to other areas of the game, though, the controls aren't that big of an issue. For me, it's the game design I have more problems with. Let's start off with the central fuel system. Once again using games from previous eras of gaming as a reference, each car has a fuel gauge that must be monitored across all races as you make your way to succeeding rounds. This creates a strategic element where you need to consider the right time to refuel. Do you go when you're barely in the lead, wait for a big gap, or go while you're still at the back? And yes, the AI is also subjected to this system, so they'll also have the same limitations that you do.

    Refueling can be accomplished by heading to one of the four pits located just before the start line. Additionally, if you suffer four critical damages to your car, you'll have added reason to head to the pits for repairs. In both cases, if you let these conditions linger, the car will start to give out by chugging along like a limping victim. To start the repair process, you have to literally squeeze your car in between two of the four tiny men. It's very impractical to have such a tight space to enter especially when you're in the lead. It's all too easy to crash into one of these indestructible men and send your car careening backwards, killing whatever lead or gain you had worked hard to establish that lap. A potentially big problem that could have easily been fixed with a little foresight on the part of the development team. 

Further on the strategic element I mentioned earlier, knowing when to head to the pits is more or less undermined by the game's automatic reset system and its overly-restrictive definition of what classifies as "out of bounds". Whenever your car strays even a little away from the main path, your car will get reset very quickly -- unreasonably so, in fact. Succumbing to one of these resets becomes a major impediment during bumper-to-bumper races, to the point that not even turbos can help you catch up in some instances. Obviously it depends on how far back the game pushes you -- which admittedly, usually isn't too far away -- but it still shouldn't happen, period.

    In my eyes, this is one of the biggest flaws of the game. More than just being an annoying part of the game to contend with, this element only detracts from the experience. As a result of this restriction, shortcut opportunities are practically non-existent, and when you do get to quickly cut across a patch of grass without getting sent back, you can only shave off a second at most. Now, some may be drawn to this unforgiving style of gameplay, but I personally did not find this to be an endearing quality at all. 

What compounds the situation further is the nature of the computer opponents. It's the type that can easily turn and hug corners without reducing much of their speed. On the normal difficulty, sometimes just coming in 3rd is an accomplishment in itself. Sure, it does make victory more satisfying, but to get to that point, you must first endure some pretty discouraging gameplay. I mean, if the AI gets a few seconds ahead, it only takes one or two more mistakes before you've killed off your chances of coming in 1st. And given the flaws I mentioned before and how "sensitive" (for lack of a better word) the game is, I can't see how many would find this appealing.

    On the other side of the token, when you set the AI to Easy, things become quite different. You may have one opponent who proves to be like a thorn in your side, but the effects are more comparable to a brief prick than a drawn-out sting, if you know what I mean. You won't feel like your skills as a gamer are being called into question, but in return, the game becomes a bit dull as you stay in 1st Place for much of the race. Don't even ask me if setting the AI to hard makes things any better. After my frustrations with the standard difficulty, I was put off from going any higher than that. In either case, it's easy to see that 3D Pixel Racing has been geared towards, patient players only. 

So how do the other two modes fare? For a start, Capture the Flag isn't much fun. And I say that not only because of the flawed gameplay in general, but also the nature of the AI. Most times, the computer and I end up colliding with each other, and the flag just bounces back and forth. Thankfully, Hot Pursuit isn't as silly. In this mode, your goal is either to make the criminal lose all his HP (by bumping into the back of his car), or on the flip side, to evade capture (by creating enough distance). I didn't like the way you were forced to go through five levels with no way of switching things up mid-way through, but other than that, it was kind of enjoyable.

    As I alluded to at the beginning, there is one aspect to the game that I can speak positively about, and that's the game's visuals. Seagulls, lighthouses, and all other aspects of the environment appear in a similar block-shaped patterning. This pixel style really does take over the entire game, and it's nice to see it work so well. If nothing else, 3D Pixel Racing has a nice art style going for it. But I'm sure you'd agree that it would have been more beneficial for them to tighten up the actual gameplay instead of trying to make up for the flaws with glitter.

In terms of audio, the music is very weak in my eyes, so that area should have definitely used some improving. There are also some technical difficulties that creep in from time to time. For example, to pull up the Pause Menu, you need to press Plus and Minus simultaneously, but for some stupid reason, the game won't let you abort early in some modes. Instead, when you hold these buttons down, there's a weird slowdown that takes place. There were also two instances where I went through a wall and in both cases, the pits were to blame. So yeah, not everything about the presentation works. 

    3D Pixel Racing features more than eight tracks in all (normal/reverse) with a few unlockable ones along the way. Even with the modes included in the package, I wouldn't be surprised if you were still left wondering if the game was worth $5. If I were you, I probably wouldn't spend the money. The only person who should feel comfortable buying this is someone who has been dissatisfied with the lack of challenge in some modern-day racers. And even then, 3D Pixel Racing is at times difficult for the wrong reasons.

    As has been covered, there is no shortage of flaws in 3D Pixel Racing. Is this a situation where one can just grin and bear it? In all honesty, I'm not sure if it's worth subjecting yourself to flawed game design just because you're eager for a new racing fix. Really, 3D Pixel Racing is more frustrating and unforgiving than fun, so with that said, unless you're extremely confident that you and your friends will love this game, it's probably best just to give the game a pass. 

16/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Some minor issues with controls, restrictive reset system, pits have not been designed well, flawed game design that's very discouraging 
Presentation 6/10 - Fun art style that affects the entire game, definitely lacking in terms of music, technical flaws that should have been ironed out
Enjoyment 1/5 - More frustrating than fun, tough AI, strategy involved with refueling system, multiplayer races aren't very entertaining
Extra Content 4/5 - Multiple modes for solo and group play, Capture the Fun isn't that great but Hot Pursuit is enjoyable, flaws nearly kill the experience

Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

3D Pixel Racing
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