Trailblazers, by relatively new indie development studio Supergonk, has been launched on PS4, PC and Xbox One. We playtested it on Xbox for this review.
Visually, Trailblazers looks like a mashup between Skylander Superchargers, F-Zero, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing and Wipeout. It’s colorful, futuristic and designed to be fun rather than a simulation of actual racing. Despite the recent popularity of games like Project Cars and Assetto Corsa, I’ve always been more fond of the arcade racer genre (stemming back to the arcade days of Outrun) so Trailerblazers had been on my radar for quite a while.
Sadly, as is regularly the case with indie productions, the fun and potential for Trailblazers feels somewhat unrealized – though there’s a gem of a game here, especially in multiplayer. A lot of that has to do with Trailblazers’ unique paint mechanic, which lets you leave a stream of paint behind you as you race along the tracks. Of course we haven’t been strangers to power-ups and dropping weapons on the track for decades, but the paint in Trailblazers really comes into play when you engage in team-based racing. When you do, a fellow player will speed up when racing over your fresh coat of paint – which slows down opponents who try the same. Obviously, this process goes both ways, so there’s some real teamwork at play here and it makes for some frantic fun. The best racer of the pack might otherwise speed ahead, but in Trailblazers he’ll want to stick around and help his teammates or hurt the chances of others.
Trailblazers also has a wonderful visual style – it’s bright, colorful and rocks a cartoon-like aesthetic. It’s actually hard to imagine that the game was developed by a small team of no more than three people, when you consider how good it looks. On the audio side, the game features a bunch of musical tracks by indie artists which weren’t really my personal style, but at least you can turn the music volume down a notch and I heard absolutely no complaints from others who played it with me – so it’s probably just me.
The game comes with a story/career mode as well, and there are eight unique characters to choose from. Abilities differ from vehicle to vehicle – some being faster while others are better when you’re an active user of the paint mechanic. There are also track-specific objectives to meet to keep things even more interesting, and you can play multiplayer in both local (split screen) and online modes. It’s here where Trailblazers is especially fun, as you slipstream your way past opponents, take over the lead, and then help your teammate boost ahead once more.
Supergonk launched the game with some performance issues though, which can be seen on the PS4 version as well from what I’ve heard. The framerate regularly drops in the middle of a race, which breaks the sense of smooth futuristic racing. Pace-wise this isn’t Wipeout or Redout, but games like Sonic Racing and (for the younger crowd) Superchargers were fun because they weren’t just fun concepts but because they were also smoothly delivered. With Trailblazers, it feels like we have a game that has the potential to be just as fun (though lower on content) as those games.
Sure, it could have been higher on content as well, but the team at Supergonk is small and they’ve released this as a budget to mid-range price point to reflect this. That leaves the technical issues as the one thing that really stands in the way of Trailblazers being a great little indie racer. If those performance issues get patched up, feel free to add a full point to the score below.