You have to wonder just what is going on in some game developers’ heads sometimes. Maybe there’s something in the water, because it’s fair to say, the concept behind Big Pixel Racing isn’t exactly what anyone would describe as ‘the norm’. While some racers focus on signing up the best cars and simulating the toughest tracks, Big Pixel Racing turns its attention on dogs. Dogs, with square heads.

But before such a description puts you off, it’s worth pointing out that nearly all of this – dogs and all – is merely dressing. What’s on offer here is a 2D racer, viewed from above, that presents a simple, almost miniature, take on street racing.

In terms of context, you’re charged with racing around an open plan city in order to move up the rankings, points you win added to your total tally. The idea is to get to the top of the league to topple the street’s current ‘Big Dog’, who happens to have taken your brother hostage in true gangster style.

It’s not an especially elaborate or even entertaining set-up, but it serves its purpose, switching your attention onto the races themselves, which are dotted around various city locations. It’s up to you to choose just where and when you race, Big Pixel Racing essentially giving you free rein to drive around as you please.

Controlling your car isn’t complex in theory, but it may aggravate a few, the directional keys handling all movement as you might expect. However, what makes taking charge of your vehicle a little more tetchy than you might expect is the fact that the perspective from above never alters. Rather than turning when you do, your view is fixed, meaning what might appear to be a left turn as you head towards the bottom of the screen actually requires a press of the right key.

Once you’ve got that pinned down, the whole process of making your way up the rankings is also self-explanatory, race wins handing you dollars aplenty that enable you to upgrade the performance of your car, said upgrades making it easier to compete in the more difficult races later on.

You can even chose the difficulty level of each race you take part in, Big Pixel Racing allowing you to tailor your experience at almost every stage to make sure you never feel out of the loop. Each contest also comes with a number of power-ups and boosts littered on track, each one intended to ensure the races themselves – which are usually tight affairs – come with some heat. The bombs and shields counteract each other nicely, in truth, speed boosts effective in the short-term.

But, aside from said treats (which are about as close toMario Kartas you can get without encountering a lawsuit, the boosts themselves delivered in the form of mushrooms), Big Pixel Racing feels a little too light to be worthy of all too much play time. The free roaming aspect is a nice idea, but the city itself is far too sparse to really be too much of a draw, and though the game handily remembers your progress from one session to the next, Big Pixel Racing doesn’t really feel deep enough to warrant repeated trips.

Essentially a mini-game attempting to present itself as something a whole lot bolder, Big Pixel Racing is all promise with little delivery, some attractive cel-shaded visuals not enough to disguise the vacuum it surrounds. LikeGrand TheftAuto meets Micro Machines,this is one marriage that feels slightly fudged, but Big Pixel Racing remains charming enough to justify a quick spin every now and again.