There’s just nothing like a colourful arcade racer. When you look at the likes of Mario Kart 8 and Wipeout Omega Collection it fills your heart with joy as your retinas absorb all the bright and colourful goodness it has on offer. Trailblazers takes that colourful world to the next level, but could it be a case of watching paint dry?
Considering that it comes from the minds of ex Codemasters, Lionhead Studios and Bizarre Creations developers you would think that you’re about to embark on one of the most fun-filled racers you’ve ever played, but unfortunately, it struggles to live up to its own ambitions. Trailblazers takes several concepts from popular games of recent times to create a unique racing game. The aim is quite simple – paint trails of paint that, when driving over your colour of paint, will provide a boost for you and your teammates. Remain on your colour and your boost will level up and in turn provide you with more speed to win the race or objective.
Trailblazers comes bundled with a rather corny story.
To paint the track in your colour is as easy as pressing a button, but you only have a limited amount of paint to use at one time. Once the paint runs dry you have to wait a few seconds for it to replenish your paint meter. In turn, should you drive over the paint of your opposition it has no effect, but you obviously lose the boost you would gain if it was your own colour. This simple mechanic is what the game is based on that, in turn, makes your character decisions very important.
Paint the town red, green, yellow and blue
Trailblazers comes bundled with a rather corny story mode where humans, aliens, robots and other weird and wonderful forms of life struggle it out against each other in their efforts to become Trails champion. The characters ‘Eeeek’, ‘Arghh’, ‘Bleeeep’, Baaarp’ and ‘Boooop’ when chatting to each other while reading the dialogue, which can get a little annoying. The inspiration has obviously been taken from F-Zero as each character comes with their own unique set of stats (Trails, Boosting and Handling) and a vehicle dedicated to the individual. Jetstream is your typical entry-level racer with a good set of balanced stats for beginners, while someone like Galaxos has terrible boosting stats, but has big buckets of paint to help the faster vehicles in the team speed up by laying down lots of paint on the road. You’ll quickly find the character you enjoy using the most. It’s here where the strategy comes into play as you’re after a balanced team of 3v3.
The AI is infuriating and drive like hooligans.
In total there are 10 tracks to race on, each with their own unique design style. Again, it’s obvious that a huge amount of inspiration has been taken form F-Zero (F-Zero GX in particular) as the tracks weave in and out and it’s up to you to decide what line works best for your style of driving. You’re also on the lookout for gates scattered all over the track. Pass through one of these and you get a strip of paint laid out in front of you to gain extra boost without having to use any of your own paint. Should you find yourself behind a foe you can attack them by pressing the triangle button. This merely shoots out a strip of paint in the direction you’ve aimed. Aim incorrectly and you’ll lose an entire bucket of paint and do no harm to your foe. It takes time to master and is a little risky, as you could instead be laying paint down for the rest of your team behind you to help them speed up. This brings me to the biggest frustration in the game.
When love and hate collide
You are in essence playing a team sport where one or two of the drivers will offer up their abilities for the speedsters to win the race. The only problem is that, should you drop paint for your teammate to speed up, you’ll often find that your buddy will drive smack-bang into the back of you while boosting up behind you. This sends both of you spinning out and was often the cause of numerous losses for me. Perhaps some form of transparency for your own teammates could have made it a little more user friendly for players. The AI is infuriating and drive like hooligans. Jump online and you’ll find that the problem persists as players are pushing as far as they can to gain each and every split second to get ahead.
Where Trailblazers does a fantastic job is with its various multiplayer options. Players have the ability to play up to 4-player split screen games both offline and online and is something you just don’t see in modern PS4 games these days. The other feather in their cap is the fact that it allows for cross-platform play when online. I found races quite easily due to it allowing this feature. Lastly, I’d like to point out the soundtrack. It’s really unique and for whatever reason often reminded me of Little Big Planet with its wacky upbeat tunes. It can get a bit much as each track has a dedicated song. Fail your objective numerous times and you’ll likely turn the music down at some point.
The obvious influences from F-Zero GX and Splatoon are there for all to see. The concept is something that could have worked, but the execution feels really mediocre. You can’t help but feel that a few ‘paint-related’ weapons really could have provided the lick of paint it requires to shine.