Wipeout meets Splatoon in weird sci-fi racer Trailblazers

Trailblazers

Never been much for motorsports in general, but you stick a super-charged engine and some manner of swish sci-fi gimmickry on a racing car, and I’m in. As such, it’s no great surprise that I’m eager to get my grubby mitts on Trailblazers from Guildford based outfit Supergonk, a unique team-based hovercar racer that brings a few clever ideas to the table, even if they are retrofits from other games and genres, and it’s due out in a week.

The thing that strikes me most immediately about Trailblazers is the retro-futuristic style. Halfway between The Jetsons and Futurama, it’s a silly sci-fi world of big chunky hover-muscle-cars, goldfish bowl space-helmets and ray-guns. It’s nice to look at right off the bat, and the environments are lushly coloured. But what really sets the game apart from the pack is the big twist to the gameplay: Painting the track for your team.

‘Painting’ isn’t really the word for it, if you want to be picky. The track itself is a lovely looking LCD panel array, made up of thousands of distinct little cells, but whoever is in the lead for your team (it’s a 3v3 game at heart) can change the colour of the panels beneath as they drive, so long as they have enough energy left in their tank. Any teammates that drive over your team’s colour will find themselves gaining a speed boost that increases the longer you maintain an unbroken combo riding your own hue.

Immediately, strategic plays spring to mind. Do you take a slightly slower racing line to create an unbroken string of paint while trying to break up the opponent’s markings?  It seems more structured and comprehensible than the likes of most kart-style racers or the Wipeout series, but also could lead to some very exciting plays. If there’s anything playing Splatoon has taught me, it’s that everything can change in a moment when teams switch gears and try a new approach to painting.

The only real worries I have about Trailblazers is that the quality of the single-player will hinge heavily on how nicely the AI feels to work with as a team, and could prove frustrating if there’s not some way to at least give your racers orders. Also, that multiplayer might not achieve the critical mass of players it needs to really catch on. That said, I’d very much like to be wrong on both counts, as there’s clearly a lot of potential here, an aesthetic that I very much dig, and a fresh take on a gameplay mechanic that not too many have experimented with so far.

Trailblazers is due out next week on May 8th. You can wishlist it on Steam here, and check out the official site here.

8 Comments

  1. Flopdong says:

    Between this and Onrush, it may finally be time for me to get back into racing games. The Crew got me excited for the idea of a class-based racer, but mostly failed to live up to my expectations in that regard. I hope this game does the ‘racing + teamwork’ concept right

  2. cloudnein says:

    Great idea, not fond of the art style at all…Would love to see a “demake” with retro graphics (a-la Micro-Machines for SNES.)

  3. TΛPETRVE says:

    I’d say it’s more (16-bit era) F-Zero than WipEout. Which makes me wonder if Nintendo aren’t secretly pulling their pubes out in anger over not coming up with this idea first.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I was going to say F-Zero (in large part due to the spin attacks – I miss GX so much), but it doesn’t quite have the same movement pace. There’s that gentle, occasionally bumpy undulation to the tracks that makes me think Wipeout.

  4. Bobtree says:

    A 30 FPS video with cruddy image quality is not a good way to promote a racing game. I can’t even tell if it has depth of field and motion blur or just awful compression artifacts.

  5. haldolium says:

    Guess this game gets ideas from all sides so I just join in: lovely art and concept, but “dynamic track changes every race” has to be done really good or it might ruin everything.

    A lot of modern arcade racers that want to be like those cool games from the 90s are totally messing up track design for some reason.
    There often is no flow or proper placement of all the great graphics. It’s just a backdrop placed without further consideration. A good track absolutely needs a proper flow to it, especially in hispeed racers.

    Also the racing doesn’t look that smooth in the trailer in general. Hope it’s just the first impression, otherwise the concept sounds really nice.

    • April March says:

      I wonder if ‘dynamic track changes every race’ actually means some sort of procedurally generated track, or if it’s just a buzzwordy way to say “well, on every race the leader is gonna be someone different and they’re goint to paint a different part of the track, so the track is techinically different every time”.

      • haldolium says:

        You’re right, I haven’t considered that option. I thought more about track parts changing based upon various fixed sets, such as in Split Second or randomized upon start.