Ever wished that someone would combine the free-roaming, street-racing style of Grand Theft Auto with the vehicular sabotage of Mario Kart? And then throw in a little bit of Nintendogs just for good measure? Of course you have, who hasn't?! Fortunately, the good people at Big Pixel Studios have stepped up and made our dreams into reality with Big Pixel Racing.
Upon starting the game, you'll be informed that you need to save your brother from crime boss Big Dog, who is an actual dog in this case. You can drive around town with the [arrow] keys, looking for available races to win cash. Each race has 3 difficulty levels, followed by a duel with Big Dog himself. Your opponents will get harder to beat with each level of difficulty, but of course, nobody said you have to fight fair. Scattered around the race tracks are yellow and red boxes that will contain either weapons that can be deployed with [X] or additional speed boosts for your car that can be activated with the [Z] button.. Use these strategically to come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, and you'll unlock the next difficulty level, where you'll have to complete more laps and deal with smarter and faster opponents. The game also auto-saves after each race, so you can come back and pick up where you left off at any time.
In between the races, you can drive around town freely, although there is little to do aside from visiting upgrade shops. The shops can be used to change your car's color or purchase some bizarre items that will improve your performance. And I mean seriously bizarre. Sushi increases your boost time? Fuzzy dice improves your speed? Sure they do, in Dog City! It may not make a lot of sense, but if you were expecting realism in a game about street-racing dogs, then you were just asking to have your heart broken.
Analysis: The graphics are the first thing you notice about this game, and they're what really make it great. I'm a sucker for retro-styled pixel art, especially when they manage to make it look like a lot of puppies are driving around in Micro Machines. It would have been nice to see the upgrades as they were added onto the vehicle, but I can understand how that would have been difficult, given the blocky nature of the game. The soundtrack is especially notable and well-done; this is one of the few games where I wasn't tempted to hit the mute button and enjoy the sounds of my inner thoughts instead.
Unfortunately, there are some flaws that keep this game from being perfect. Controls are a little loose at the beginning, and although this is part of the upgrade system, it can be frustrating when you're just starting the game. The real problem with gameplay, though, is when your opponents use their weapons to cause you to spin out uncontrollably. Getting turned completely around and having to straighten yourself would be bad enough on its own, but it's made worse by the fact that this NEVER happens to your opponents. And if you manage to get thrown out of the boundaries of the tracks, it will take so long to get back that you can forget about winning that race. And although I didn't experience it, some people have complained of the game freezing and not letting them continue. But the game is so charming and has so much potential to be great, that it would be a shame to not at least give it a chance.
Glitches aside, Big Pixel Racing is an excellent attempt at a fun, quirky, browser-based racing game. Now get out there and save your brother!