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Pocket Racers (PSP) artwork

Pocket Racers (PSP) review

"I don’t like playing games that act like they hate me. Well, not me specifically but gamers in general. "

I don’t like playing games that act like they hate me. Well, not me specifically but gamers in general.

Pocket Racers gives me that impression.

On the surface it seems interesting and unique. A hooded, mysterious figure adorns the front cover, giving the impression this game may be dark and brooding. And it was such, until, you know the opening sequence where said figure comes to crash my house party and rolls up in an 18-wheeler--because we all know that those from the dark side often drive semis as opposed to horses with flaming manes or huge three-headed dogs. The game only delves further into the foolishness when the big-rig badass bursts into your house, twisting and turning his hands, weaving a magical spell that miniaturizes you and the other attendants. No information is given as to why such a travesty occurred, mind you. Perhaps the demonic diesel driver was upset because he wasn’t invited to your awesome shindig where you were only serving cola and everyone was fully clothed. I’d be upset about missing that, too.

Yet as silly as it was, I cast it off because that lame, B-movie intro built up the premise--the real heart and soul of the game that made me eager to play it: Miniature Racing. Yeah, baby! I get to drive in a minimized car through my house where everyday objects like books and bottles are gigantic. Woo hoo! This is going to be just like an updated version of Micro Machines where I raced around a track bordered by cheerios and I had to steady myself on a ruler stretched between two desks to avoid falling onto the unforgiving floor. This is going to be awesome!




Blade Interactive completely flubbed it on every level. Yes, they use typically tiny objects like soda cans and bars of soap as “towering obstructions of potential doom”, but the problem is that most are either an annoyance or ignorable. Micro Machines was interesting because the entire track was built from them--orange juice served as oil slicks, fallen books formed jumps between the gaps. Pocket Racers has the occasional poker chip can that will block your path and wreck your ride, a razor on the side of a bathtub that will…um…block your path and wreck your ride or a can of paint that will…can you guess? And what little environment tweaks they’ve added--like the giant bathtub or the booths--are a small fraction of the actual track, and you’re usually going too fast to appreciate their design. For the most part you’re driving along bland, seemingly unending boring paths that, oddly, seem like an actual raceway.

Which wouldn’t seem so obscure in a racing game but what the hell are they doing in my house? And it’s the second of many complaints I have about Pocket’s structure. It’s inconsistent. Who on earth decorated my house so that my baseboards were a checkered black and yellow border? Why the hell is there spray paint in the bathroom (unless it’s spray hair) and why are their random, perfectly carved tunnels in my wall? This isn’t a cartoon, so mouse holes don’t look like that. It seems like Blade Interactive initially set out to build a regular racing game, designed the tracks and then said “You know. We don’t have the style, mechanics or design of the other big racers out there. Let’s add an element to spice it up. Yes, yes. That’s good. Add a soda can there. Let’s put gigantic booths here. What? Yes I know it’s in a house and the idea of ten restaurant-style seats in someone’s home is asinine. It looks cool. Shut up and do it. I’m the boss.”

And thus, Pocket Racers was born. A melting pot of foolish ideas, bad design and a lack of any effort.

Still don’t understand why it hates you, the gamer? Because you haven’t got to the worst part, yet.

Winning a race in Pocket Racers will earn you a Soul gem and allow you to move on to the next tier, where the races and tracks are exactly the same, only they’re labled as “silver” as opposed to “bronze”. If you happen to lose a race--at any point--then a cryptic scene plays where a red laser blasts out of the floor, drilling and shattering the ominous crystal above it and you receive an ominous warning “You have finished last. The Soul Stealer has taken one of your friends.” Who? Oh, Merlin the truck driver. “Well that’s lame.” I thought at first, and ignored it. Then I lost another race and received the same message. I worked my way up to the last level of the silver tier when I lost the last of five souls I was allotted (yes, you only have five friends. The spray hair seems more valid a claim now). When I went back to try again, I found I was no longer on the silver tier, but the first level of the bronze. I thought it was a glitch. Yes, I pieced it together that those souls were lives and when I lost all of them I had to start over, but I refused to believe it. No one on earth would do something so outrageously, emphatically stupid as to add lives to a racing game, right? Right?

Wrong. No matter how hard you work, or what you get up to if you lose five races it’s back to the start. Because you have lives. Lives? Really? In a racing game? That makes about as much sense as a blind guy in a strip club.

Having five chances to beat something, in this day and age, is nothing but a screw job. Especially when you take into consideration all the opposition. The controls are weak, and most cars spin out of control with the slightest shift from your thumb. Other racers can plow right through you and flip you on your back without warning, and hitting the wall renders the same outcome. Few things are labeled so it’s easy to get off course and turned the wrong way, losing the .10 second advantage you had. You’re going to crash and burn. A lot. If you don’t believe me, or think I suck at racing games keep in mind that Pocket Racers has a suicide button, in case you get into a bind, that will reset you back onto the track only after several seconds and everyone has passed you.

And yes, it is slightly possible that I’m bitter, or not any good at racing. I wouldn’t complain then, but you don’t just lose a life if you come in last. If you have a bad start, or simply grow weary of racing and quit your current run you still lose a soul, no matter if you’re first, last or just started.

You’re forced to do everything all over again. But that also happens if you win all the races so what's the point?

It’s lose/lose. Great. I hated everything about Pocket Racers before that, but it wasn’t that teeth grinding, big vein pulsing in my forehead type of hate. Thank you for adding that one element that pushed it over the edge for me. One that serves no purpose other than the developers giving you the finger, and making a useless game harder than it ever needed to be. Maybe, just maybe, it could be perceived as challenging, but that only works when you like the other aspects. For something like Pocket Racers it just makes you put it down--for good. I regret that I ever picked it up.

I hate you Zig.


True's avatar
Community review by True (July 15, 2010)

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honestgamer posted July 16, 2010:

I played this game and reviewed it for Hardcore Gamer Magazine. Your thoughts and score pretty much mirror my own, except I think I might have hated the controls even more than you did. Too floaty, and the courses that you make sound so awful really are that awful. This was a great review that does the game's horrific side proper justice. To anyone who reads this and thinks "Wow, it can't really be that bad," let me assure you... it's really that bad. I think Zig still secretly hates me for having him review this and that's why he passed the love (*snerk*) onto you. Pocket Racers sullies the life of all who it touches.
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True posted July 16, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback, Jason. I appreciate it. I, too, thought that it "wasn't that bad" and when I made that challenge and allowed Zig to choose the game and he said Pocket Racers, then he immediately starting apologizing, I thought he was just joking around.

Five minutes into the game I realized why, hence the "I hate you" line. I will, no doubt, pass this on to another. It could be a fun little game we have here.

Where's Wolfqueen...
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honestgamer posted July 16, 2010:

Honestly, it would probably be rather fun to see that happen. There would be some bravery required on the part of people who got involved, and I imagine that it would be increasingly difficult to round up a new victim with each review posted, but I'd still be interested in seeing if the idea could go anywhere... and if maybe it would be worth doing for other titles (not all of them bad ones), as well.
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True posted July 16, 2010:

It really would be, kind of like Infection for the PSP. Only I wouldn't know how to begin such a thing, aside from making the request to the person, but they may want some sort of incentive.

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