In one of those weird coincidences that happens occasionally in entertainment, a number of different top-down, single-screen racers have released in a small window. Moto Roader MC, Top Down Racer, Total Arcade Racing, Bloody Rally Show and now Retro Pixel Racers have all come out in recent memory, and we’re at the point where an involuntary sigh leaves our lips when we get to review one. It’s not Retro Pixel Racer’s fault, and we’re not in the business of marking a game down for it, but we’re really feeling those top-down racer blues.
Jandusoft’s Retro Pixel Racers at least does something different. It looks at the usual features of these games – four-player local multiplayer, highscore tables, multiple game modes and bucketloads of tracks – and thumbs its teeth at them. This is – and it feels odd to write it – a top-down racer that has no multiplayer, not local or online, so you are left to play entirely on your lonesome. It’s the loneliest racer we’ve had the opportunity to complete.
Not having a multiplayer mode in a top-down racer is akin to having a single-player battle royale. It’s near-completely pointless and almost unheard of. It’s like having a single-player only golf game, which is somewhat ironic as the last Jandusoft game we reviewed – Smoots Golf – was exactly that. It seems like Jandusoft are in the business of stripping multiplayer out of conventionally multiplayer games, and it sucks worse than it sounds.
What are you left with? Altogether now: “bugger all”. Retro Pixel Racers is embarrassing in its lack of stuff to do; to the degree that we almost want to revisit our other top-down racer reviews and apologise for criticising their lack of content. Retro Pixel Racers is, exclusively, a single-player campaign. There are 26 missions for you to complete, and they oscillate between races and time trials on the same sequence of tracks. Do a race and then a time trial on an oval track, then a race and a time trial on a B-shaped track, and so on and so forth.
Are the races good? Are they cobblers. The tracks in Retro Pixel Racers are the same oval-tracks with someone replacing one of the Scalextric track pieces with a different Scalextric track piece. It’s the least imaginative racer that we’ve played, and we’ve endured Race With Ryan. Check the screenshots of Retro Pixel Racers, and you’ll see what we mean.
For a genre known for its breakneck speed, as you anticipate corners seconds in advance, Retro Pixel Racers is as slow as a spot of uphill wheelbarrowing. It makes for some curious races where you trundle behind a CPU’s spoiler, looking for a corner that you can take moderately better than they did and sneak a nose in front. There aren’t any weapons in Retro Pixel Racers, so the only real strategy is when you offload your Boost. Since most tracks are a couple of bends and a couple of straights, the answer is ‘on the straights’. The opponents don’t have the ability to boost, because of course they don’t.
Not content with the sheer nakedness of the game, Retro Pixel Racers has one last gripe. The cars are loaded with magnets, which might explain the lack of speed or acceleration. Hit a wall, and the car will glue to it, unable to move left or right. You can reverse, but the reversing controls are – haha! – reversed, so you will inevitably turn the wrong direction. And it’s all too slow anyway: find yourself pritt-sticked to a wall and you are as good as finished. The game is too slow to allow you to return to the front of the pack, and the game’s missions will only consider a first place as a success.
Sweet Martin Brundle, there really is very little good to say about Retro Pixel Racers. Even the visuals are bargain basement. There’s no option to get anything but grey out of the few tracks you’re given, and the cars are minor recolours. We found ourselves selecting a car that looked reminiscent of the taxi in Fifth Element, and it was the most fun we had in the entire hour it took to complete Retro Pixel Racers.
In the past few months, we’ve experienced a traffic jam of top-down racers. And right at the back, way behind the rest of them, is Retro Pixel Racers. It offers no excuses: it flicks the bird as it passes, with no multiplayer, no game modes, no track variation and a top-speed just north of a shopping trolley. This is an aggressively bad racer that doesn’t even offer the courtesy of an easy 1000G.
You can buy Retro Pixel Racers from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S