PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap Review
PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap box art
System: PS3 (PSN) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Q-Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SCEA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 24, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-8 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
So Close, Yet So Far Away
by Tony Capri

Sony and Q-Games ask PS3 owners to take a double dip of PixelJunk Racers in this new slot-car-inspired downloadable arcade title. Can 2nd Lap get gamers’ engines roaring, or is it merely a clunker stuck in traffic?

PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap screenshot

If you didn’t sign on for the first PixelJunk Racers, the concepts in this slot-car game have less to do with actual racing than they do true arcade action. There are, indeed, a few challenges in which crossing the finish line first is the ultimate goal, but the bigger focus here is on everything between the starting and finishing lines.

The package includes four main gameplay components, along with an online leader board. Solo Tournament is where individual players can take on challenges one by one, earning bronze, silver, or gold medals in order to unlock additional challenges, á la Excitebike. It’s a tried-and-true, attractive way to progress the single-player experience, though it can also prove quite frustrating when you simply want to get at everything hidden underneath the game’s hood, so to speak.

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Solo Tournament has a surprising amount of variety in terms of its challenges, and each of the challenges is polished and mechanically sound. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges are actually fun, and when forced to retry courses upward of ten to fifteen times in order to unlock a new batch of challenges, tedium soon turns into loathing.

Some of the early challenges are straightforward and, though simple, they offer a bit of fleeting enjoyment. For instance, In The Zone tasks you with keeping up with circles moving along the track in order to explode nearby racers, and it’s a fun and simple way to teach the player how to properly regulate their speed. Sunday Driver, on the other hand, forces you to wade through an ocean of slow-moving vehicles, and as its name implies, it’s about as much fun as navigating rush-hour traffic.

PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap screenshot

To say the challenges are hit and miss isn’t necessarily the best way to describe 2nd Lap. It’s obvious the team at Q-Games took many cues from Nintendo, and the game has cleverness to spare. However, there’s a certain spark missing from PixelJunk Racers that keeps the game from ever becoming an entertaining raceway experience. The vehicles are tiny, and the time it takes to switch lanes, though relatively fast, still feels plodding when your goal is to reach and maintain top speeds while blurring past a congested track full of other cars.

On the plus side, the controls are extremely easy to master, almost too easy, and there’s some nice, tactile feedback as well. There’s no real handling to negotiate in 2nd Lap, since your vehicle stays locked into an invisible slot until you switch lanes using the D-pad. Maintaining an optimal speed, however, plays heavily into many of the challenges, and it’s an element that takes a bit of getting used to. The cars move with a momentum akin to electric Hot Wheels racers, and there’s no breaking system other than simply letting off the gas.

PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap screenshot

In addition to the Solo Tournament, you can play through quick races with up to seven other players locally. As you play through tracks in Solo Tournament, you’ll unlock those challenges in other modes as well. Party Races is the other main multiplayer mode where players can compete in mini tournaments. Both modes are fine additions to the package, though bringing additional players into the mix doesn’t do much to ramp up the fun factor of 2nd Lap. The track design is often pedestrian, and there aren’t many opportunities for Mario Kart-style mayhem to flourish.

Screenshots / Images
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