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Tiny Trax review

Kevin Dooley On July 25, 2017

It's been a relatively quiet period for PSVR, despite a wide range of experimental titles on the PC. Sony's hardware has been somewhat limited on that front. This makes Tiny Trax a welcome addition to the format using a novel overhead slot car viewpoint but is it a useful gameplay mechanic or a gimmick lacking in longevity?

The miniature car racer immerses you in its virtual reality world thanks to its many different bright and vibrant locals, which are visually interesting and packed full of charm. In order to eliminate any motion sickness, developer FuturLab has provided the player with a godlike viewpoint of the action from up high. Panning your head enables you to follow your lightning fast vehicle around the race track as you tackle turns, spirals and jumps executing perfect drifts along the way. The game marks the very first foray into not only the world of VR, but also the racing genre for the developer.
 

Beautiful but deadly


Before the racing starts in earnest, you are first taken through the basics of the game’s mechanics which include the very important business of drifting and boosting. As you approach a turn, a green “sweet spot” segment appears above your vehicle: turning sufficiently will enable you to fill this bar up to the sweet spot. This enables you to earn turbo boost (shown as a blue bar underneath your vehicle) which can be unleashed at any time.

This drifting and boosting mechanic forms the backbone of Tiny Trax, but there's much more nuance to the title. Should you turn too early into a corner, your vehicle will slow to a halt: equally, not turning through a bend will see your vehicle's speed diminish dramatically. Tiny Trax is all about balancing the timing of a turn with the angle of your vehicle’s drift to keep up that all-important momentum. Finally, you can change lanes at a touch of a button. Doing so will allow you to negotiate turns on the inside of the track essentially shortening its length to gain some valuable tenths.



Although the premise of Tiny Trax is very simple, it actually has a surprisingly steep learning curve which may put off a decent number of players. Those expecting a fun, instantly gratifying, pick up and play title may wish to look elsewhere as this miniature racer demands a high level of skill, not to mention patience. In fact, it took thirty minutes of solid gameplay for the game's mechanics to click with me.

That's not to say I was standing on the top step of the podium after each and every race, but rather I had acquired enough experience to avoid finishing last in most cases. With a further investment of time, you should find that you'll be able to secure the top two positions now and again. Tiny Trax is a difficult game that requires perfection and mastery of its controls if you want to obtain those shiny, and often elusive, gold cups.

Before you compete against three AI rivals, you can view the environment and race track in its entirety. You have the chance to adjust your viewpoint (through the pause menu), and take a good look around to get a feel for the track's layout and complexity. Using the default view, you can see the vast majority of the track ahead of you, only needing to turn your head to see the extremities of the track in most cases. It's a simple system, but works well in the world of VR.
 

Charm overload


Tiny Trax's environments are a thing of wonder and are easily the strongest element of the title. Each is lovingly detailed, packed full of charm and feature a track which is full of twists, spirals and hairpins which can defy the laws of gravity.

The VR racer features the three distinct environments: Paradise Adventure sees you racing amidst giant pirate ships and treasure caverns; Frozen Forgeway consists of an icy tundra environment juxtaposed with lava pits and giant volcanoes; whereas the Galactic Odyssey environment takes you to the vacuum of space complete with alien worlds with unreal colour palettes, and distant planets which look big and menacing in the sky.



Viewing these tracks in virtual reality is a treat for the senses: looking around and appreciating the small details and soaking in the various themed tracks while watching your miniature vehicle whizzing past your nose as you execute the perfect slide, gaining a position along the way, can be satisfying. In contrast, miss-timing a slide and seeing your vehicle stall in its tracks as you get left by the field can be infuriating. It's these extremes that will no doubt frustrate many a player.

A miniature racer would be nothing without its quirky vehicle choice. Fortunately, Tiny Trax offers six varieties. Sadly though, we've seen these types all too often in the genre. You have the usual miniature suspects of a muscle car and camper van as well as an off-road racer and open-wheeled formula race car among others. Each is available in a number of colour choices and all are adorned with exaggerated parts such as large exhausts, huge rear wings and aero parts aplenty.
 

(Empty) trophy cabinet


The single player campaign in Tiny Trax, known as Cup Race, plays out across four cups which take on the form of multi-track championships. Each takes place on one of three locations. Initially, you are granted access to the first championship and can unlock further ones by finishing the previous championship in any placing. The Cup Race mode climaxes with a championship which includes an assortment of tracks from all three available locals.

It's fair to say that Tiny Trax's single player mode is not the biggest and it's not long before you've experienced each and every track that the game has to offer.

Each race consists of five laps, and should you finish in the top three positions (which is harder than you may think) you'll be rewarded with a trophy of appropriate metal type. These trophies take pride and place on your shelf seen at the main menu which should give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Talking of fuzzy feelings, although the action ticks along at a rapid pace in VR, at no point during my play through of Tiny Trax did I feel any nausea.

tiny trax ice and fire

Elsewhere, the Single race mode enables you to practice at any stage that you have unlocked through the main Cup Race mode. This mode is essential to learn the tracks in detail before opting for the more serious business of the Cup Race mode which will see you racing for those precious shiny cups.

You can also take the action online in Tiny Trax to battle it out with friends and strangers alike. You have the choice of creating, or indeed joining, private and public events which can consist of either a single race or a championship as found in the single player portion of the game.

The online action plays out as smoothly and as fluidly as the single player experience albeit with added satisfaction of beating a fellow human being. Races take place with up to four players and the host can choose which tracks the action takes place on. After spending a decent amount of time with the near perfect AI, it's nice to jump online to see players getting it wrong here and there which added to the fun factor and general unpredictability.

At first glance Tiny Trax gives the appearance of a simple game, however after just one race you'll quickly learn that it conceals a multi-layered system that needs to be adhered to if you want to finish in any place other than last. Tiny Trax's steep learning curve and desire for perfection and mastery of its mechanics may serve as a great frustration for many. However, if you're willing to stay the course you'll be rewarded with a somewhat fun and challenging virtual reality racing game and at just £12.99 (and only £10.39 for PlayStation Plus members) it's worth a shot if you are looking to test your racing skills in the world of VR.

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