Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: December 21, 2018
Trailblazers is a futuristic anti-gravity team racer available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Supergonk is an indie developer situated in Guildford, England comprising of development talent from Codemasters, Bizarre Creations and Lionhead; specialising in intriguing racing games. Can Supergonk deliver a unique futuristic anti-gravity team racer in the form of Trailblazers?
Story mode comprises numerous chapters starting out with the basics in the form of a tutorial as Sid makes the point that a character named Jetstream who wants to enter races has to prove her pace on track with the tutorial challenging the player to paint a certain quantity of trail, reach a 2x multiplier and beat a particular lap time. Chapter 2 onwards is all about participating in the Trailblaze Tournament as multiple characters in which every race provides up to three trail tokens for successfully completing the race while simultaneously fulfilling each race objective such as finishing position; beating a certain lap time or race time on a track; scoring a certain quantity of points; finishing ahead of a particular character; and much more besides totalling to 216 trail tokens.
Custom race mode allows the player to select from any of the tracks and their track variations, event type, 1 to 10 laps or an infinite quantity of laps and difficulty of A.I. controlled drivers or no A.I. controlled drivers before choosing your character. However, custom race mode does not allow for the creation of a multi-race championship.
There are five event types including team racing focused on your team of three drivers collectively earning more points and finishing on the podium more than the opposing team, alongside partner battle providing a further team based event with a second racer on your team and three teams instead of the usual two teams of three vehicles per team. Meanwhile, all vs. all sees every racer competing for their own victory instead of as a team; gate chase changes up the gameplay by doing away with the trail bar, while replacing it by positioning dozens of gates throughout the track that paints a trail directly ahead of each gate that your vehicle passes through; and time trial were the player can set their fastest lap time while learning each track.
There are eight cartoon stylised characters that each have their own futuristic vehicle complete with variable attributes ranging from one star to five stars per attribute for each vehicle including the quantity of trail, alongside the quality of boosting and handling. Trail is the name of the painted track surface that your vehicle and any character’s vehicle from the same team gains a significant boost in speed for as long as the vehicle is within the confines of the painted trail, although after a period of time; there will be no more trail left to use resulting in a cooling down period when trail replenishes in order for the track surface to have more paint applied to it. Trailblazers is not particularly classed by genre as a combat racer, especially considering there is no arsenal of weaponry fitted to your vehicle or collected on track to fire at your opponents or collectible on track power-ups to use, but a trail can be painted ahead of your vehicle that will make any opposing vehicle spinout if it hits them.
Track design is diverse as there are 10 tracks situated in the desert, forestry, beaches and futuristic cityscapes with every track having multiple paths in order to strategically gain an advantage over the opposition in relation to where your trails are painted, although some of those paths are more technical than others as they require more precise handling due to being narrower in width. However, each of the 10 tracks have four separate track layouts as they can all be raced on in forwards, forwards mirrored, reversed and reversed mirrored variations totalling to 40 unique tracks as racing on a track that is reversed or mirrored completely alters your approach to every corner.
Trailblazers’ sense of speed is always exhilarating even at slower speeds before boosting. However, your vehicle’s maximum speed is decided by the quality of your vehicle’s trail and boosting capabilities, alongside how long the player can maintain the vehicle’s three tiered multiplier through not hitting the trackside barriers, driving into an opponent’s trail on track or being hit by an opponent’s trail aimed at your vehicle. Meanwhile, handling is a mixture of familiarising yourself with the track layouts, control scheme and the sensitivity of the handling for your preferred vehicle; given each vehicle’s varying handling attributes.
There are three third-person camera angles positioned close behind your vehicle, a mid range distance behind your vehicle and further back that can all be rotated a full 360 degrees. It would have been better to be able to choose from third-person or first-person camera angles such as from the front of the futuristic vehicle without any bodywork; a bonnet view showing the bonnet’s bodywork; a driver’s eye view from the perspective of your chosen character with the steering wheel and interior of the vehicle on display; and a Micro Machines or MotorStorm RC styled camera angle that would be situated above the course as though a helicopter is dynamically following the racing action. Meanwhile, there are no replays or photo mode, so those features would further improve how events could be captured and viewed.
There are not many futuristic racing games on Vita, despite there being Wipeout 2048; it would have been amazing to see another futuristic racing game on Vita, although remote play is a consolation. Trailblazers’ remote play performance is amazing as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance as the PS4 version. There are no remote play control optimisations as accelerating and braking or reversing are mapped to the top right and top left of the rear touch pad respectively when it would have been better suited to re-map accelerating to R and braking to L, although after a little getting used to the remote play controls; Trailblazers is still an entertaining remote play experience.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with a control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake or holding L2 to balance the vehicle when entering a sharp corner or reverse; pressing R1 to respawn your vehicle; pressing L1 to cycle through the camera angles; holding X to paint the trail; pressing triangle to fire the trail ahead of your vehicle at the opposition; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer your vehicle; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration is efficiently utilised when your vehicle drives onto your painted trail to begin boosting, while the light bar produces the colour of your chosen vehicle’s trail. There is no touch pad support that could have provided an alternative to painting the trail or switching camera angles.
Graphically, Trailblazers is reminiscent in personality, colour palette and vibrancy to a racing equivalent of Splatoon. Excellent vehicle models and animations are complimented by a supreme sense of speed around superbly designed tracks in a cel-shaded art style.
Trailblazers’ presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, story mode menus, custom race mode menus, split-screen multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, character and vehicle selection menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds are bright as they show a character in the foreground and a track in the distance. However, there are one or two features here or there that are a little sparse on their presentation such as the lack of a control scheme diagram on the options menu and in-game pause menu as it would have been convenient for players to be able to view the control scheme when beginning gameplay in custom race mode or for new players fresh to Trailblazers during split-screen multiplayer.
Despite there being a full cast of characters; voice-overs are surprisingly minimal in comparison to the amount of dialogue within speech bubbles. Sound effects include vehicles accelerating, painting trails on the track surface, boosting over your team’s painted trails, driving through paint gates and crashing into obstacles or trackside barriers, alongside a remixed style of jazz funk music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced sound effects, voice-overs or music.
The trophy list includes 12 trophies with 8 bronze trophies, 3 silver trophies and 1 gold, although there is no platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Boooo! bronze trophy for finishing every lap in sixth position as Boo; while the Pass With Flying Colours bronze trophy for finishing a race in first position and the Gatecrasher bronze trophy for driving through 50 paint gates in a gate chase race are both especially easy when turning off A.I. controlled vehicles. Harder trophies include the Eight Sides To Every Story silver trophy for completing all story chapters and the Gold Standard gold trophy for unlocking all gold tournament tokens. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 15 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, medium and hard, while there is also the choice to not have any A.I. controlled vehicles within any given event type. Major differences between easy and hard difficulty levels include A.I. controlled characters being more aggressive and accurate in the use of painting a trail as a weapon, while simultaneously attaining a far more precise quality in their driving leading to a more consistent pace through not hitting the barriers and always driving over their previously painted trails; resulting in players having to be absolutely immense in their race by race performances in order to consistently win races.
Split-screen multiplayer supports 2 to 4 players presented in a horizontal split-screen for two players in custom race mode; providing all of the customisable options and event types as the single player custom race mode. Split-screen multiplayer retains the same quality in graphical fidelity and performance as single player gameplay with a consistent frame rate even though there is an optional full field of A.I. controlled vehicles totalling to 12 vehicles potentially on screen at any given moment during two player or 24 vehicles during four player split-screen. However, split-screen multiplayer does not include a customisable championship containing multiple races, while story mode does not feature support for split-screen multiplayer.
Online multiplayer allows up to half a dozen players to race with graphics and performance also being on par from single player gameplay. There are some interesting online multiplayer features including up to 4 players being able to play in split-screen online multiplayer, while there is also cross-platform compatibility as players on PS4 and PC can play in the same online multiplayer races, while players on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC can join the same online multiplayer races, alongside A.I. controlled vehicles making sure of a full field of half a dozen vehicles.
Trailblazers’ replayability stems from a single player story mode and a custom race mode in single player and split-screen multiplayer for 2 to 4 players on 40 tracks in three difficulty levels, alongside online multiplayer for up to half a dozen players that will collectively keep players returning for quite some time. However, more engaging close quarters combat, customisable championships, multiplayer support for story mode, full voice-overs for each character’s dialogue in story mode and more camera angles would improve the quality of Trailblazers’ gameplay even further.
• Title: Trailblazers
• Developer: Supergonk
• Publisher: Rising Star Games
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Split-Screen Multiplayer)/2-6 (Online Multiplayer including Cross-Platform Compatibility and Split-Screen Multiplayer for up to 4 Players)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 1.15GB (Version 1.03)