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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Little Racers STREET (XBLIG)

Remember Micro Machines? If you do, then you'll probably have some fond memories of not only collecting, but of driving the little replicas through your front yard. Little Racers STREET feels a lot like that.

Let me say first, I'm a huge fan of Micro Machines (and their speed talking spokesman- remember him?). I collected them like a madman and was even into the playsets and the Star Wars/Trek stuff. It was a great, great, line of toys with a lot of  imagination that you don't see too much of anymore.

So how does this all fit in with Little Racers STREET? Basically, I got the same feeling from LRS that I did with Micro Machines all those years ago. It also doesn't hurt that the game has a 'mini' look that would fit right in with those 'mini' toys. It's a really nice look too, I suppose that doesn't hurt either.

In fact, the first thing I noticed when I fired the game up was the graphics. I was honestly expecting something along the lines of a Super Nintendo-esque 16bit look with the subject matter (top down racing), but what developer Milkstone did here is anything but.

The cityscape looks terrific with really well crafted roadways, terrain, and buildings. Likewise, the weather effects are something special. Rain, snow and the like all look appropriately realistic- and they even affect the roadways! Raining? Get ready for some slick driving.

Nighttime in the city.
Even though they are quite attractive, for the sheer amount of races that comprise the 'career mode', there aren't nearly enough areas to play around in. I would've liked to have seen a few more... or even a drop in length for the career. What that basically shakes down to is that you'll be racing through the same stretches of broken roadway and concrete canyons much, much too often. It's not a huge issue just for the fact that (again) this is a good looking game, but it is there and for anyone who gets board easily- could be a major hindrance.

One thing that kept me playing, even through the repeats, was the race lengths. They're short and tight with an emphasis on beating out the pack and overtaking the leader. Even across multiple laps, I never felt like things were dragging on since the courses themselves were compact and well designed.

After you complete a race, you'll head into the garage. From there you can  buy more cars, enhance your current ride, and even customize your racer. It's pretty robust for something like an Indie game and impressed me with the sheer ambitiousness of it. If you're looking for something ultra-deep like a Gran Turismo, this isn't it- but for what it is, you're getting a lot for your money points.

Red lines are like barricades. Don't hit 'em.
Now, I did have a lot of fun with Little Racers and there is a lot to like, but there are some issues too. The biggest problem I had with it was the pack dynamic that I mentioned. While it can be an exciting premise to blast your way through to the lead, it's also a bit of an exercise in eye tracking as (since you race from a 3/4 viewpoint) it's marvelously easy to lose your car in the crowd of speeding auto's.

I can't tell you how many times I was sure I was looking at my vehicle only to realize, as I crashed into the wall, that I had lost it. And when you crash, you come to a pretty quick stop. If you glance the retaining wall, it'll just slow you down, but smack into it head on and you're looking at a second or two of non-motion- deadly in a race.

These cars don't 'do' offroad.
Hit the wall too much, by the way, and you'll start to see a drop in performance. Yep, there's car damage, but not in a visual sense. Your stats suffer, thus your chances of winning decrease. It would have been cool to see the cars showing damage- hoods tearing off, doors denting in, etc... but even so, just having a damage rating at all is a really cool perk in a game like this.

There is so much to like about Little Racers STREET though, that I almost feel bad about pointing out its negatives. This is a fun racer that is absolutely perfect for either a quick game here and there, or a full fledged play session to advance up the ladder and blow past your rivals. At only 80mspts, this one's almost grand theft auto and is well worth a try.

- Jason M





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Review: Little Racers STREET (XBLIG)
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