Long-time gamers have a unique love affair with the pixelated visual style of yesteryear, so it comes as no real surprise to see developers like Silicon Studio, creators of PlayStation 3 game 3D Dot Game Heroes, have success melding the nostalgic look of pixelated sprites with the modern visual capabilities of today's consoles. Now, Microforum has taken that same visual principle and applied it to its WiiWare racer 3D Pixel Racing.
For the most part, 3D Pixel Racing feels like a cross between a more traditional racing title and a kart racer. The cars and their handling tend to lean more towards the gameplay mechanics of a kart racer, while some of the actual race track activities lend themselves to a more realistic racing experience. You'll generally find yourself racing through five given tracks in an attempt to score more points than your CPU or human opponents.
The Championship and Single Race modes allow you and up to three other players the opportunity to take each other on in races around a host of different tracks with varying times of day and weather conditions to deal with. Championship mode will take your through five tracks, whereas the Single Race mode allows you to jump into a quick race around a single track. You choose from a selection of different cars, each with their own unique speed and handling capabilities. You'll even be able to make pit stops during the races in order to change your tyres and refuel, both of which can dramatically affect your car's handling.
There are also a couple of rather unique modes you can jump into as well, such as trying to outrun the law in Hot Pursuit, or playing a game of Capture the Flag where you try to be the racer to earn the most points by hanging onto the flag for the longest distance throughout the race. There's even a Time Trial mode to test your speed and manoeuvring abilities around various tracks in a race against the clock.
Controlling your car is accomplished using the tilt controls of the Wii Remote on its side, but you can expect a rather loose feel as the tilt controls are extremely sensitive and most of the cars drift incessantly, some to the point of being completely out of control. You can make use a Wii Wheel if you have one to hand, but in all honesty it doesn't offer much in the way of a remedy. You have buttons for acceleration, braking, turbo boost, and even changing gears, although it does take a little getting used to given the rather spread-out button layout.
In all truth, there will probably be those who manage to stick with the game long enough to become mildly proficient with the touchy tilt controls, but even then the myriad of sharp twists and turns will likely still prove to be too much for most players. The additional modes of play are a nice touch, but given that they make use of the very same flawed gameplay mechanics of the main racing modes, they don't end up adding much to the package in the end.
The pixellated visual stylings of the game are extremely well done and offer up a very unique presentation that should appeal to modern and classic gamers alike. The frame rate is also fairly solid, even when the screen is split into four sections and the racing action hears up. The scenery off in the distance is a bit bland at times, but in reality you'll be spending most of your time staring at the blocky cars and tracks, so you'll have little time to notice.
The game's soundtrack consists primarily of techno-infused music tracks that, while catchy enough in and of themselves, feel a bit out of place in a racing game of this type. The tracks also tend to repeat rather frequently and don't show a lot of variety over the long haul. Even the racing announcer doesn't come off very inspired in his voice duties. About the only really decent part of the audio package would have to be the impressive car sound effects.
As interesting and unique as the visual presentation is, it's still not quite enough to cover up the many gameplay flaws that rear their heads rather frequently throughout the game. The overly touchy steering controls and the somewhat lacklustre execution of the gameplay itself makes playing the game like more of a chore than an enjoyable gaming experience. Unless you just have to tackle every racing game that comes along, you might want to pass on this frustrating package.