Reviews Trailblazers review

Reviews

Kevin Dooley

News Editor

Posted on

Game: Trailblazers

Platform: PC, PS4, XBox One

Publisher: Rising Star Games

Release Date: 08/05/2018

Developed by indie studio Supergonk, Trailblazers is a retro-futuristic cel-shaded racer that adds a unique “track painting” mechanic to the genre. Here’s how it works.

Players paint their team colours onto the racing track. Driving over the freshly laid paint will then initiate a speed boost for the relevant coloured team. You could say it’s the Splatoon of racing games, but does Trailblazers paint a good picture, or is it not worth your Monet?

Story time

Trailblazers’ Story mode puts you in the shoes of eight characters. These include an annoyingly excitable rookie racer named JetStream, Boo, a somewhat sad and appropriately blue coloured giant frog, and the no-nonesnse Kiara who you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Characters interact with each other between races with dialogue, which mostly involves teasing one another, while also providing some further context.

The Story mode plays out across countless chapters that unlock in sequence by achieving at least one of the objectives from the three given for each event. Objectives range from finishing in a certain position, beating a target time, or scoring a required number of points among others.

trailblazers desert environment

Trailblazers mixes up the action with several event types such as Time Trial, All Vs All, and Team Racing. There’s also Gate Chase, which tasks you to drive through a required number of gates, and Partner Battle where teams of two battle for high scores making for some challenging and frantic action.

While progressing through the Story mode is relatively straight-forward (unless you aim for all three objectives which can take considerable skill), there are some huge spikes in difficulty that felt unbalanced and out of place. To supplement the Story mode, Trailblazers also offers players both online and offline multiplayer with support for up to four players.

The colour run

As mentioned earlier, all racers are able to paint the track in their colours enabling a speed boost for everyone in the correctly coloured team. This is achieved by activating the paint button once the paint gauge has filled completely. Painting adds an element of strategy: do you carve out your own fast racing line, or do you instead focus your efforts on slowing down your opponents by covering over their paint? Alternatively, you can use your full paint gauge to unleash a “paint weapon,” which fires a line of coloured paint ahead of you and can also be used for a quick speed boost, spinning out any unsuspecting foes in the process.

Another source of speed lays within the various gates scattered around the environments. Simply passing through these will lay fresh paint ahead of you (much like the weapon) for a boost of speed. Finally, if you keep racing on top of your team’s coloured paint you can increase your speed multiplier. Doing so will give you additional speed. Building up your speed boost to the maximum is fun and challenging, and makes your vehicle impressively rapid.

Vehicool

In Story mode, you are given a character and their specific vehicle before the off. Each vehicle is governed by three stats: trails, boosting, and handling. Naturally, each vehicle has its strengths and weaknesses, with some all-rounders thrown in for good measure.

Vehicle designs have a distinct retro-futuristic flavour and are generally well-crafted and interesting to look at. Each share some similarities with the characters who drive them with obvious references, colour choices and some visual elements to boot.

Unfortunately, vehicles tend to understeer, it can be easy to grind and then stick against the track rails as a result. When this happens it’s quite difficult to get loose, which can be frustrating. Driving doesn’t feel as intuitive as it should, especially since the bright and colourful visuals will attract a younger audience.

trailblazers forest environment

The AI in Trailblazers is generally challenging, but AI opponents have a tendency to collide into you (including your own teammates), which can cause you to face the wrong direction and take you out of the flow.

Trailblazers opts for a cel-shaded art direction, resulting in an interesting cascade of locales. The four desert environments look like something straight out of Borderlands with the highlight being the very twisty “Goliath’s Graveyard” location, which is strewn with obstacles, split paths and giant robot parts.

Elsewhere, there are three forest-themed tracks. “Tree Stumps” provides an altogether darker theme thanks to a hazy greenish yellow sky, whereas “Sunset Grove” and “Brushwood Beach” offer much brighter environments, the latter being the most interesting track in Trailblazers. Finally, there are three city-themed tracks (for a total of ten tracks) containing loops, twists, and, in the case of “Tower Park,” some rather disorientating 90 degree turns.

All of these locations are set to the backdrop of a booming futuristic funk soundtrack that complements the action very well and is toe-tappingly good.

Trailblazers is a fairly fun arcade racer that tries to stand out from the crowd with its unique track painting mechanic, which works well for the most part. Sadly, vehicles are largely unsatisfying to drive and have a tendency to understeer, the clumsy AI can lead to some frustrating moments, and the occasional spikes in difficulty in the Story mode can be rather harsh. Unfortunately, these elements detract from what is otherwise a decent effort from the UK-based Supergonk development team.

Our Review

6 /10

The good

  • Interesting vehicle designs
  • Fun art style
  • Unique track painting mechanic

The bad

  • Generally unsatisfying vehicle handling
  • Large difficulty spikes
  • Clumsy AI

Summary

Trailblazers is a fairly fun arcade racer that tries to stand out from the crowd with its unique track painting mechanic, which works well for the most part. Sadly, vehicles are largely unsatisfying to drive and have a tendency to understeer, the clumsy AI can lead to some frustrating moments, and the occasional spikes in difficulty in the Story mode can be rather harsh. Unfortunately, these elements detract from what is otherwise a decent effort from the UK-based Supergonk development team.

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