If you love arcade racing games then here's a brand new indie with a fresh spin on the genre. However, does Trailblazers blaze enough trails to provide a worthwhile racing experience? Poke a hole in a can of paint and get ready to race.
Trailblazers is played a lot like WipEout in that you drive anti-gravity vehicles around complex tracks. However, it features an innovative paint system which makes it feel similar to Splatoon. Basically, you can paint the tracks and as you drive over your colour, you'll get a speed boost. On the other hand, if you drive over a different colour then you slow down. So, it's best to paint as much of the track as possible in your colour so you (and your teammates if you're playing a team-based race) can glide through the track with more ease. You can paint the tracks by entering gates which is the most effective method, using your entire paint meter to colour a strip of track in front of you while attacking any opponents who happen to be in the way, or holding a button to paint as you go. It's clever stuff and when you factor in the solid racing, you're left with an impressively enjoyable gameplay dynamic.
One aspect that Trailblazers accomplishes masterfully is its presentation. It looks like a Dreamcast era game as it features plenty of wacky character designs, colourful and trippy tracks, and has an overall funky early 2000s aesthetic. Speaking of funky, the soundtrack is fantastic and full of great house tracks and upbeat electronic rhythms that manage to elevate the gameplay to an even more enjoyable level. There are 8 distinct characters to play as with their own stats and 10 tracks that can be also be played backwards or mirrored. The tracks are superbly designed, too, as they feature plenty of branching paths so finding the optimal route is a great deal of fun.
In addition to the fantastic variety of characters and tracks, there are plenty of ways to play as well. For starters, you can progress through a single player story mode while trying to pass challenges and achieve as many tokens as you can. It's rather lengthy and perfectionists will have a heck of a time trying to achieve everything. Next, you can play multiplayer races either locally or online with up to four total players. There's a decent amount of options and modes such as team races, time trials, partner battles, battle royal matches, and gate chases. Although all of these options are great, I was hoping to see more multiplayer content. Considering the gameplay is mostly team-focused, being able to play through a cooperative campaign would have been awesome. Instead, all you can do is set up custom matches and play one race at a time which is rather disappointing and an obvious missed opportunity.
Speaking of missed opportunities, there's a complete lack of character progression and vehicle customization. This makes the gameplay much less satisfying than it could be, especially within the story mode where you'd expect to be able to improve your abilities in one way or another. Last but not least, another substantial complaint is that the artificial intelligence is all over the map. Sometimes, I couldn't beat the computer on the easiest difficulty setting and other times, they'd be far behind me on the hardest setting. Even AI teammates behave erratically and might even sabotage your chances of winning. I can't remember the last time I played a racing game with such unpredictable CPU players but I can easily say that Trailblazers gets a gold medal when it comes to irrational AI.
Trailblazers is an enjoyable racer with a very cool colour mechanic and a stellar throwback presentation that's highly reminiscent of the Dreamcast era. Even though it has a few drawbacks, fans of arcade racing games should still check it out.
- + Solid racing and clever paint mechanics
- + Awesome Dreamcast era presentation with wacky characters and funky music
- + Great variety of tracks and options
- - AI behaves erratically
- - Lack of character progression and vehicle customization is a missed opportunity
- - Could use more multiplayer content