Trailblazers – Nintendo Switch – Out Now – £24.99 (eShop)
If WipEout and Splatoon had a baby, it’d look and feel a lot like Trailblazers, I think. Though eschewing the eternally cool Designers Republic vibe of WipEout for a pleasingly colourful cartoony aesthetic, as well as avoiding the tactile goo of Splatoon – and instead giving the paint a less tangible feel on the track – the conceptual mashup still feels apt.
High speed racing is the order of the day here then, in WipEout-esque hovering craft, each with nicely distinct designs that fit well with the accompanying pilot’s look. The twist here – which invites the Splatoon comparison – is that your craft can deploy paint on the track as you race; driving over your team’s colour gives you a boost and the key to success is to drive over as much paint – in an unbroken streak – as possible, in order to continually boost, faster and faster, around the track.
You have a teammate who’s also painting the track in your colours, so you will always have assistance. Other racers have different colours, however, and you’ll want to avoid theirs when your paint is recharging, but paint over it when you can to stop them from gaining the boost bonus opportunities you’re trying to create.
Alongside standard races, there are time trials too – these can be frustrating affairs, however, given that you have teammates who seem to be racing very competitively with you and will even knock you off course if you get too close, thus scuppering your opportunity to get a decent time. Though I believe the thinking behind their inclusion is to get as much of the track painted as possible, in order to speed you up on your final few laps, it’d help a lot more if they weren’t prone to taking you out, especially when that happens early on in the trial attempt.
On those attacks: you can attack other racers with a tap of the X button; a prompt appears when you’re able to do this, but it doesn’t feel particularly effective in my experience – at least so far. There’s little feedback to suggest that anything has happened, so it seems to me that it’s not even worth distracting yourself for.
Though these few issues are noticeable, the racing and painting itself is well implemented and feels great. Getting an unbroken run on a huge line of paint causes some serious speed – and it’s incredibly satisfying.
Also on the positive side, there’s an immediately appealing look and feel to Trailblazers, with excellent character design, suitably twisty tracks and an absolute belter of a soundtrack, with some great, beat-heavy electronica accompanying the racing action (described as ‘Future Funk’ on the game’s website). It’s an unusual choice – far from the dance/EDM tunes you may expect – but works well and is another touch that makes Trailblazers feel unique.
There’s a lot of content here – and collecting medals through reaching target positions or times in the various events is definitely a compelling way of playing the game.
There’s a lot of multiplayer options too, though, so it’s not just a game that can be enjoyed alone. Four player support in local multiplayer is also joined by cross-platform, online multiplayer options. Having cross-platform multiplayer support for a relatively little-known, reasonably small scale game is a surprising, but definitely welcome, feature and should certainly be applauded.
Something else I have to mention that’s pretty disappointing is the lack of video capture in-game; screenshots can be easily taken, but without video capture it’s difficult to capture the sense of speed and motion – or demonstrate how much the excellent soundtrack adds to the experience. It’s a real shame; when I’m playing through a game, I’ll often post clips on social media and it really does help to spark interest in a game, no matter how obscure or difficult a concept the game may be to grasp. I do think the developers have shot themselves in the foot by not offering this feature.
That said, I’ve enjoyed my (admittedly brief, so far) time with Trailblazers; there’s a unique feel to the races due to the colour-boost mechanic and bright, colourful visuals. It isn’t the most technically impressive game out there, nor is it the most well-rounded racing experience on Switch – but you could certainly do a lot worse in the same price range. It’s great to see such a talented team of developers take a chance on a completely new IP, especially as Trailblazers has fresh ideas that are well implemented. It’s a game that flew under my radar for a long time, but definitely deserves more exposure.
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