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.