If memory serves, Mario Kart: Double Dash was the last co-operative racing game I played. I enjoyed its gimmick for a little while, but it never really stood out as the series’ finest. Call me old fashioned, praise-greedy or traditional, to me, racing is more of a lone-wolf sort of thing. That’s always been my outlook, until now. Trailblazers is described as a fresh co-operative racing game that comes with a very unique, very interesting gameplay mechanic. It’s fresh, it’s engaging and it’s utterly immersive. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that it’s the next big thing, but it is something special due to the quality of its innovation, that much has to be said.
Teamwork in Trailblazers is key, without it, you’re pretty much toast. Not only will you be using your anti-gravity vehicle to make it from start to finish, but you’ll be painting the track with your team’s color along the way. Your team can then use this color to achieve a significant boost, so long as they drive over it. The aim of the game is to cover as much of the track as possible in your color, making for easy work on a subsequent run. The kicker, on the other hand, is that your opposition will also be doing the same. However, when you run over the opposition’s color – or them your own – it cancels the color out and leaves your color in its place. It’s a very imaginative function.
You see, this not only promotes a degree of careful driving, but it makes being in first place all that more tense. This simple yet well thought out (more importantly well developed) mechanic is totally unique and to my knowledge, hasn’t been done elsewhere beforehand. Racing in Trailblazers isn’t about the finish line, it’s about getting there. Mercifully, it’s a very easy game to pick up and understand. The controls are mapped out exactly as you would expect, with the main exception being that the A button is used to drop paint on-track. Driving over your team’s colored paint will net you a multiplier, in which lengthier boosting will unlock higher top speeds.
This is where it pays off to be tactical about your driving. Painting one big assed line around the track makes the most sense, but it needs to be accessible for your team to successfully follow it, trouble free. This means taking care when painting a sharp corner or drawing a straight line on a long stretch. This, on top of cancelling out your opposition’s paint, truly makes for some fun-filled action racing. It sounds easier than it seems, but that’s all part and parcel of the game’s learning curve. Throw in the fact of course that each racer; humans, aliens and robots, all come with varying pros and cons. Some characters have better top-speed, whereas others have more paint capacity.
That being said, paint does tend to run out quite quickly. Thankfully, depending on the mode you’re in, this can be replenished through time or by passing through a gate, which I found needed to be used sparingly either way. I say that because there’s nothing worse than coming up to an opponent’s paint-stretch and having none left yourself to counter their drop. Dropping paint will indeed slow down your vehicle, but it’s often necessary for the team’s success to have at least one racer per-side spending most of their focus on this aspect alone. There’s no “I” in team, after all. This leaves the remaining of your team open to enjoy the boost, which in turn, will give your team a better chance of winning.
Story mode is a great place to start. The game slowly but surely feeds you into the basics of play, while introducing its wacky cast of characters and great tracks along the way. The fun campaign is hardly a game changer, but it’s inclusion manages to stand firmly enough regardless. We also get to witness the different modes that are present here too. Trailblazers’ modes keeps the gameplay interesting through the use of implementing different rules or gameplay parameters. For example, Gate Chase completely restricts the use of paint and instead requires that you pass through mini-gates to paint a portion of the track ahead. They’re all fun and sit very well with the track designs.
Each track remains compelling throughout, bringing colorful and well detailed locations into the fold. The same can be said about the character and vehicle design, collectively giving Trailblazers more emphasis to its distinct appearance. This is all upheld by a great soundtrack, bolstered further but its solid audio cues. My only gripe with the game sits with the AI, which can often be tedious and annoying to contend with. It’s nothing that some skill and perseverance cant overcome, but something I wanted to make a note about all the same. This game supports online and local play. Only time will tell whether or not its online community will flourish, though, with a generous asking price and such a fun-filled experience to boast, I certainly hold hope that it will.
Trailblazers is undeniably fun, well developed and unique. Its distinct design and innovative paint-to-boost gameplay mechanic proves that a simple idea can go a very long way. With some AI issues to the side, this is one cooperative-specific racing experience that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether or not its online community will flourish remains to be seen, but given its alluring foundation alone, I hold hope that it will.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.