Thanks to the wonderful people over at Indie Game Fiend I came across a title I had heard nothing about and might have unfairly missed in the daily opening of the Steam sluice. That game was Supergonk’s Trailblazers, a co-operative racing game described as Splatoon meets wipE’out”.
The basic premise and gameplay of Trailblazers is a bit confusing at first. You take control of an art deco hover car in the galaxy’s finest racing tournament but your goal is not necessarily to finish first. Yeah, that takes a bit of mental reprogramming. The whole point of Trailblazers is for your team to have the most points at the end of the race and while there are bonuses for the fastest finishers they aren’t enough to ensure victory.
Points are gained by painting the track (extra for painting over the other team’s trails) and boosting. You and your team get a speed boost when you’re driving over a trail of your colour, the longer you’re on your colour the faster you go and the more points you build up. Once you slow down, you bank your combo and trust me, do this often as all it takes is one gentle Summer fling with a barrier and they’re gone. However, no paint, no boost. The first few laps are spent painting the track, breaking the other team’s trails, and setting yourselves up for a speed run at the end. This means that each lap is different as trails are overwritten and keeps the tracks feeling fresh.
While Trailblazers innovates on the racing genre with the painting mechanics, they have sensibly kept the rest of the mechanics close to home with very prominent wipE’out” inspirations. The controls are sensitive, requiring small, twitchy adjustments as you slalom between barriers and after a little adjustment period – I’m a Mario Kart fan, sue me -I found them to be very, very good. The only criticism I have on that end is the lack of a drift function.
What sold Trailblazers to me so much was the Jet Set Radio feel of the soundtrack and the art. The art deco cars, the bright and vibrant colours and the cheery cartoon characters are so refreshing after a deluge of pixel art. Everything in Trailblazers is expertly crafted to fit their style and the passion for the design shows.
Like most racing games, Trailblazers has a single player mode for when you can’t get your friends to come round. Nicely, this takes the form of a story mode that takes you through the interweaving (but shallow) stories of the playable characters and a conspiracy to sabotage the tournament. Its Saturday morning cartoon writing with a little bit of adult humour thrown in every now and then and nods to some darker background stuff like Volta’s place in the robot revolution and a vast galactic war.
Here comes the kicker though: Trailblazers is shit in local multiplayer and from my experience, the online community just isn’t there. In splitscreen you’re stuck with a screen that is just too small to see the track well, causing you to smack into barriers far too often to bank a good combo. Online is much better but even then I was never able to get more than 2 or 3 other players and the AI just don’t cut it against a good human.
Trailblazers is a fantastic racing game that innovates on the genre in a way that makes it an absolute breath of fresh air and it is in desperate need of players. With cross platform multiplayer bringing PC, PS4, Switch, and XBOne players together the community is sure to grow but at the time of writing I’m going to be sticking to single-player.
You can get Trailblazers on Steam HERE