PSN Review – PixelJunk Racers 2nd Lap

Those humble folks over at Q-Games just love doing things in pairs. None of their wily creations can be left on the Store without another digital partner to keep it company, whether it be an ‘encore’ pack, or an out and out sequel (and in some cases, even a bit of threesome action… yes, I’m looking at you, PSP version of Monsters.) Racers has been sitting quietly on the store for a while now, tucked away in its little cubbyhole, waiting for the day when it too would receive a playmate, and now it has it, with PixelJunk Racers 2nd Lap popping up on the Store this past week (read 2 weeks ago if you’re one of them fancy PlayStation Plus types).

Unlike the rest of the series, Racers was widely panned by critics. Although, I must admit, I was one of the handful of people who enjoyed the first game. It was a quirky and original arcade-style romp and whilst it was a little repetitive, it did have the right amount of skill to make it enjoyable. Top that off with some imaginative game modes, and Q-Games were on to a winner in my eyes. It’s a shame that no one else saw it this way, but I do understand that the overly simple controls did make for a boring experience and that there’s only so much you can do with slot cars, both real and virtual, before you tire of the novelty.

If you’re not familiar with PixelJunk Racers, let me give you the run down. As mentioned, the game is a top-down slot-car-’em-up, reminiscent of those old Scalextrics you used to have, only without the insane crashes when you took a corner too quickly. Racers features a very basic set of controls, with acceleration and lane changing being the only thing you will do in the game. It’s a very simple premise and one that just about everyone will be able to jump right in to.

Racer’s diverse set of modes is where the game shines. Q-Games have took their slot-car foundation and done pretty much all they could with it: there are survival rounds, speed rounds, overtaking rounds, one-hit kill rounds and so on. A good set of game modes is crucial for a game like this, where the basis alone couldn’t offer you any variety and thankfully the game modes in Racers are a lot of fun, especially if you have more than one controller hooked up at a time (the game supports up to 7 players on screen at once!)

Perhaps the most entertaining of the bunch are the speed rounds, where things can get so fast, you’re having to read the track half a lap in front of you so as to make sure your blur of a car doesn’t crash into any of the other slot motorists. There are a couple of duds in the mix though. If you’re the kind of masochistic sucker who loves being stuck in slow moving traffic and behind people incapable of choosing lanes, then the Sunday Driver and Student Driver modes are perfect for you. Still, these are few and far between, and don’t spoil the enjoyment of the other levels.

Saying this however, it’s more than understandable that players could get tired of the game relatively quickly. The campaign mode isn’t the longest around, even with most of the events being repeated at least twice; however you dress it up, it’s still just same old slot car racing with nothing to stave off that niggling sense of repetition. The lack of online multiplayer also seems like a missed opportunity.

Presentation-wise, Races is hardly a looker. The graphics are bright, if a little uninspired, but the style does lend itself well to the faster parts where clarity is essential (even when your cart is just a six foot long blur.) The announcer, however, doesn’t do the game any favors, but fortunately he only perks up when there’s something important to say.

The most recent release, 2nd Lap, is a slightly updated version of the first game: all of the old game modes and tracks have been brought over but this edition also includes a couple of new ‘incentives’ for all you devilish trophy gophers. Also thrown in is the new Ghost Attack mode where players try and top the leaderboards with the fastest times. The new mode works well enough and it does give you something more to do after a fairly abrupt campaign but it’s hardly a revolutionary addition that’s going to make a convert of the many nay-sayers. There isn’t a whole lot new in 2nd lap, and despite a slightly easier single player, the original game remains unchanged.

PixelJunk Racers is a fun enough little party game, at times requiring an enormous amount of concentration and skill which I’m sure will be fit for a couple of laughs once someone at the party breaks out the bubbly. Ultimately though, this is still the same critically scorned game from 2007, just with a couple of added features. If you weren’t a fan back then, chances are you aren’t one now. But if you were one of the few that did enjoy the first game, then you may as well give this update a download, especially since 2nd lap is free for all original PixelJunk Racers owners. No reason not to, right?

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Fun, if repetitive, set of game modes.

Certainly not for everyone.

Good for a couple of rounds in multiplayer.

7 out of 10