Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: April 3, 2018
Tiny Trax is a virtual reality focused slot car arcade racer available for download from the PlayStation Store for PlayStation VR. Tiny Trax’s developer FuturLab has previously tackled every PlayStation platform between PSP through PS4 via the Minis range including Coconut Dodge and Velocity before progressing onto PlayStation Mobile with Beats Slider, Fuel Tiracas and Surge, alongside Vita native enhanced ports of Coconut Dodge Revitalised and Surge Deluxe, while Velocity Ultra released on Vita and PS3 and sequel Velocity 2X released on Vita and PS4. Following on from their success in a variety of genres; can FuturLab create the definitive virtual reality slot car racer?
Tiny Trax begins with a basic track that forms the basis of an effective tutorial that teaches the player how to accelerate, steer into corners, boost, switch lanes and recharge boost which can be practised on for as many laps as the player prefers to do so; therefore resulting in ample time for the player to hone their slot car racing technique before progressing onto racing competitively.
Cups mode offers 4 cups with the first three cups comprising of 4 races per cup at a duration of 5 laps per race with a points table of anywhere from 1 point for finishing in 4th place to 4 points for winning the race resulting in close battles for which car wins the cup; accompanied by a rewarding podium at the climax of the championship. At first there is only one cup available to race in named the Paradise Adventure Cup as the next cup must be unlocked by winning the previous cup as each of the first three cups revolve around a particular themed environment, while the fourth cup named the All-Star Cup encompasses two tracks from all three environments making for the longest cup totalling to half a dozen races.
Single race mode is ideal for practising each track to a point of mastering them in order to improve your performance within their respective cups rather than waiting for the problematic race to come around again during the cups mode with a podium to celebrate the top 3 cars. Single race mode allows the player to race on an unlocked track for 5 laps against 3 A.I. controlled opponents, although there is only one environment containing one track that is initially unlocked until the player has completed a cup to unlock each new track and environment.
Slot car design is suitably diverse as there are six slot cars that are individually based upon a different style of car including Mad-Hustle Muscle channelling a muscle car; Grass Hop Hoofer is similar to the design of a beach buggy; Big Tiny Trouble is reminiscent to the truck the T-1000 drives in Terminator 2; Street Boost Burner is akin to a souped-up street racing car; Rapid Refresh F5 fuses together an F1 chassis with the classic Batmobile; and the Kahuna Wave Rider is strongly influenced by the Volkswagen Bus. Every vehicle has powerful jet boosters equipped which are engaged when the player applies the boost, while there are half a dozen colours to choose from for your slot car including red, green, blue, yellow, white and pink.
Track design is unique as there are three environments including the tropical islands and shipwrecks in the four Paradise Adventure tracks, while a mixture of molten lava and frozen, snowy surfaces and backdrops are situated throughout the four tracks of Frozen Forgeway, alongside Galactic Odyssey’s four tracks set in outer space upon planets, moons and ships in which the player can lean forwards for a different view of the on-track action. Track design is geared towards being as exciting as possible as tracks feature corkscrew upward or downward spirals, tight hairpin corners, short to medium or long straights, jumps, underwater areas, loop the loops, extreme verticality as though it was straight out of your wildest, most imaginative Scalextric set and much more besides.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to accelerate; pressing X to boost; pressing square to switch lanes; pressing L1 to beep your slot car’s horn; pressing triangle to highlight the location of your slot car; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer into a corner; tapping the touch pad to display the pause menu; and holding the options button to reset head tracking. Vibration occurs when boosting through corners or during large jumps. Head tracking is utilised to change the camera angle by tilting your head around the track such as leaning in between a loop the loop which provides far greater immersion. Players that would prefer a viewpoint naturally positioned closer towards or further away from the track can adjust the camera from the options menu between a default centred camera, 7 clicks further forward or 7 clicks further back. It is possible to play Tiny Trax with the PlayStation Move instead of the DualShock 4, although a Navigation controller is required which is not included in the VR Move bundle, but were part of the Move bundle during the PS3 era.
Graphically, Tiny Trax is superb in every detail from slot car animations to incredibly realised tracks in both the foreground and background such as Paradise Adventures’ shipwrecks, alongside Frozen Forgeways’ Molten Ruins showcasing realistic particle effects such as sparks rising from magma as molten lava flows out of volcanic rock as lava bubbles underneath the track surface which is all viewable through the centre of a loop the loop connecting to the start-finish straight. Elsewhere, Galactic Odyssey’s Enigma Eden is situated near a backdrop of planets including Saturn as spaceships fly overhead, while Lunar Drill takes place on the moon’s surface as rovers drive past in the distance with an amazing view of the Earth in the far distance.
Tiny Trax’s presentation is quite immersive when selecting a single race or cup and a slot car to race with as the room is covered in bright lights, drawings of car designs, engine parts and more besides. Head tracking detects the particular menu you want to enter before pressing X to display that menu in which menus are navigated via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons in addition to tapping the touch pad to exit a menu.
Sound effects include the countdown to the race start, each vehicle’s engine being driven accordingly to maximum acceleration, cars engaging their boosters particularly during the straights to increase acceleration further, screeching tyres when boosting through a corner, alongside ambience specific to certain tracks such as a splash upon driving into water on Shipwreck Island and more besides; complimented by arcade racing music.
The trophy list includes 36 trophies with 22 bronze trophies, 8 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Taste For It bronze trophy for earning a gold medal in a single race; the Face Warmer bronze trophy for peering through the loop de loop in the Molten Ruins single race; and the Dumb Thumb bronze trophy for oversteering and skidding to a halt twice within 5 seconds. Harder trophies include numerous time trial style trophies such as completing a single race, a lap or an entire cup within a particular amount of time; and the Tiny Treasures gold trophy for earning platinum in all cups. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the track design and requirement of precise cornering in order to retain momentum is all that is needed for very close wheel-to-wheel racing were a single mistake when approaching a corner can be the difference between first and anywhere from second to fourth, while the balanced gameplay actually makes the close racing entertaining instead of frustrating even when there is an unbelievably narrow margin between winning and being a runner-up.
Online multiplayer supports 2 to 4 players with a choice from any of the 12 tracks in a single race or 4 races in cup mode including the championship points table; therefore reflecting the features found in single player even to the quality of graphical fidelity, sense of speed and performance. Meanwhile, online leaderboards focus on fastest times from each player with rankings covering every track with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); the best time set by each player; and a podium highlighting the three fastest times, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top positions, globally, from your friends list and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard.
For family and friends situated in the same room; the TV presents what the player is experiencing, albeit without the ability to pan the camera. There is no social screen multiplayer which is a missed opportunity as the racing genre is one of the most family friendly gaming genres and could have honed in on PlayStation VR’s grand pitch as encouraging social multiplayer experiences between PlayStation VR and the player using the TV screen by zooming the camera out for the TV player.
Tiny Trax’s replayability originates from its unpredictable hard fought wheel-to-wheel racing throughout multiple slot car designs on 12 tracks in single races or cups comprising of 4 to 6 races in single player or online multiplayer for 2 to 4 players and online leaderboards charting the fastest times for each track that will have players returning for quite some time. It would have been even more wondrous to see FuturLab embracing Tiny Trax’s premise even more so by featuring a track editor in order for players to construct their own unique themed environments and track designs to race on with custom built slot cars; hopefully ideas that FuturLab will implement in a future sequel.
- Title: Tiny Trax
- Developer: FuturLab
- Publisher: FuturLab
- System: PlayStation VR
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1/2-4 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 2.55GB (Version 1.01)