The Return of the Isometric Racer
When I was a boy, the isometric racer was a gateway to my race driving fantasies. Even more than the third-person, over-the-top camera of other Super Nintendo and PlayStation 1 games, the pulled back view of titles like Rock and Roll Racing allowed me to slip away and sink into the cockpit of those little machines, imagining the sights and sounds, grudges and debts to be paid more than any texture or 3D model ever could. Little Racers: Street takes aim squarely at that hallowed place in my nostalgic heart. It comes close, Little Racers but ultimately falls short of the finish line.
The notes those isometric racers hit, I believe, were the very same struck by the Hot Wheels craze. There has always been something special about the toy car and the imaginative race track, something that begs to be played with. On that level, Little Racers is an incredible success. The vehicles featured in the game and that far-back camera make it feel very much like playing with Micro Machines. These are toy cars on colorful toy tracks. As I zoomed around, embracing the loose physics and quick nitrous-boosted slides, it was easy to imagine an invisible hand guiding my car. I may have even made a sound effect or two myself as I SCREEECHed and VROOOOMed past the competition.
Race, Win, Upgrade
The game itself is delightfully unpretentious. There is no veil of serious business gameplay to conceal its focus. There is no story and no need for one. Entering into the game in career mode means choosing a car, choosing a race, and fighting for the finish line. Along the way you earn reward money for upgrades and new cars. These upgrades allow you to place higher and earn even more money for even more upgrades and new cars. This is the hook: race to improve and improve to race.
This is a cycle which should be addictive and it is… for a while. The problem with Little Racers is that it is too bite-sized for its own good. In many ways, the game feels like a mobile app with large with races that last just a few minutes and controls just tight enough to be workable. Passing from race to race occurs almost breathlessly, saved only be the sheer number of events in each performance class. Make no mistake, Little Racers is a fun racing racing game that successfully brings back the old memories of yore, but it is not a deep game and there are still some rough edges despite having released on Xbox 360 last year.
The First Race…
Starting out in Little Racers goes something like this: You enter career mode and choose a low performance car. I chose the hippy fan because, hey, flower power. After that, if you have funds left over you can start upgrading right away. Be careful because you can upgrade yourself right into the next class of tougher races and downgrading comes at a price, albeit a small one.
From there, you go straight to the race selection screen, which is deceptively limited. For some inexplicable reason, each class only lists five races at a time when in fact there are twenty in each and more than 200 in total. I am still unsure of how to return to races which I already completed and spent a good few minutes wondering why none of my progress had been saved under Attempts and Wins. Each race has a pot to be won based upon your finishing place and vehicle damage.
Faithful recreation of the top-down racer, lots of races, good challenge
Controls feel a little loose and races are a bit too short, lightweight gaming