One of the things I love about the racing genre is the abundance of different styles, combinations, and types of ethos behind these games. The latest racer to push the genre’s boundaries is Trailblazers from Supergonk.
The simple way to describe Trailblazers would be as a cross between F-Zero and Splatoon. This doesn’t really do the game justice, though. Yes, it is a futuristic racer and you paint the track, but the combination creates such a unique blend of strategy, skill, and mayhem. The point of painting the track is that it allows you and your teammates to boost when driving over it. Pressing “A” paints the track. You have a limited amount that you can do in one go. Once you stop painting, though, it automatically recharges after a set period. This forces you to think about whether you should do patches or long streaks. When driving over this paint, you automatically boost. The more paint you consistently drive over, the better your boost.
The painting may well be the gimmick of Trailblazers, but it would be worthless if the actual racing were rubbish. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. The vehicles handle very well. You can also feel the difference in the handling capabilities of the characters’ vehicles. Each character has different ratings in terms of paint, boost, and handling. Someone with a low paint ability won’t be able to put much of a streak down. Characters with a higher rating can do very long stripes. If your protagonist has a high boost rating, then their speed will increase dramatically while boosting. This balancing of abilities really helps to even the playing field of the various characters. It also comes into its own when you are racing as a team. The vast majority of the races in the campaign see you working with other characters. This means that if you have a slower vehicle that has a good paint rating, then you can stop worrying about getting into first place and just paint as much track as you can to help your teammates go faster and win the race.
Speaking of characters, there are eight to choose from (though you do encounter others). Alongside the selection of human characters, there are also some aliens and a robot. Each has their own tale and takes their turn in the spotlight as you progress through the campaign. Some of the storylines are a little contrived, but the writing is good enough to provide a few chuckles. Everyone gets three chapters and four races to tell their story before you move on to the next.
There are only 10 tracks in the game, but this isn’t the type of game where you just constantly go along the racing line. You will invariably use different alternative routes and parts of the track. Just because one route was quicker in your last race doesn’t mean it will be the quickest way in your next. You need to go where your team’s paint is, and that changes each time. This variation really helps to keep the racing interesting and means you don’t get bored of the limited selection of tracks.
Visually the game has a great cel-shaded style. The characters, surroundings, vehicles, and the paint all nicely pop when on screen. It’s a very bright game, but it’s never gaudy. I did experience a few occasions where the frame rate slowed down, but it really was the exception rather than the rule. To be fair to the developer, it was also when there was a hotchpotch of paint on the ground and lots of vehicles all close together.
I have to confess I was impressed with how well the paint mechanic worked in Trailblazers. It really does feel more than just a gimmick. Some of the campaign challenges are a little unbalanced — one in particular — but they do help you figure out how to race as a team player. There is cross-platform multiplayer, but I was unable to find any matches at the time of writing this review. Overall, Trailblazers is a great little racer and one I aim to come back to in the near future.
A review code was provided by the publisher.