Two for the VR crowd and a tennis management title today, as we look at BlazeRush: Star Track, Little Cities and Tennis Manager 2022.
BlazeRush: Star Track review (Quest)
When checking for new releases for the Quest headset, we certainly weren’t expecting to see a VR adaptation of 2014’s BlazeRush to pop up. Even though we’ve seen that miniature racers can be done in VR with examples like Mini Motor Racing X and Tiny Trax, it had been almost eight years since we reviewed BlazeRush and we weren’t expecting a comeback. But with a genre that’s very much underrepresented on the Quest, we certainly were intrigued.
The miniature racer, which first emerges in arcades with the likes of Super Sprint but rose to mass popularity thanks to the Micro Machines franchise, is a great example of a genre that works best in a couch multiplayer setting, competing against one another for first place and taking the lead with a well timed upgrade or weapon. The kart racer that evolved from it is still massively popular today, so it’s no surprise that games like BlazeRush sit somewhere in the middle – featuring small cars racing around a track while pickups let you launch weapons at the other racers.
VR is obviously less well suited to multiplayer gameplay (which is why it’s a shame that there aren’t more games that make use of a paired TV screen for that), but BlazeRush: Star Track does feature online multiplayer if you want to try to compete against others. Easier said than done though, because we had to set up a session with a fellow journalist just to be able to play a few rounds together. As with many VR titles, lobbies aren’t populated enough for a vibrant multiplayer scene, and this is no exception.
There’s a fully featured single player mode though, with a campaign that features no less than 30 races to get through. There are also different race types to enjoy, which besides regular races includes survival (with a ‘boss’ looking to mow everyone down) and a king of the hill mode, where it’s all about getting to and staying in first place in order to score points. We love the diversity, but obviously these would all be more fun if Star Track was able to pair with a non-VR version for multiplayer as well.
Regular races emphasize weapon use as well, with a thumbstick-controlled scheme for driving and buttons for weapons and boosts. The VR factor lets you control the camera, which gets more comfortable once you start to memorize the tracks as it can be hard to look ahead – especially when racing towards the camera. Once you get around to exploring a bit, you’ll notice that BlazeRush: Star Track actually looks really good, with diverse backdrops and plenty of details on the tracks and cars. Don’t look too long though, because races are generally frantic and chaotic, with plenty of weapons that can send you back a few places or help you catch up. It’s a fairly formulaic racer in its genre, but if you’re looking for a combat-centric miniature racer in VR then this fits the bill nicely.
Little Cities review (Quest)
We’ve covered Little Cities before, but the full version of the game recently launched for the Meta/Oculus Quest so it was time for another look – especially because we’ve also been able to go hands on with Cities VR recently, so we were finally able to compare the two. The good news? If you like city building, you’ll probably enjoy both games, and they’re different enough to exist side by side on your headset.
One of the most striking differences is one that you’ll see pop up in a number of areas: the fact that Little Cities was built from the ground up for VR whereas Cities: VR was an adaptation of a fully featured city builder made for PCs. In essence, it’s an approach where you build a game based on the toolset that’s available to you versus one where you look and see what you need to strip to “make it work”. As said, we think they both succeeded in that, and we’re glad that the end result is two unique city builders for VR.
Little Cities, as a result, is much more about the act of building a city than about micro-managing the many facets that are involved with that. Not to a degree where you’re just plopping down LEGO blocks and creating a city, but in a way where you settle into a natural flow where new stuff gradually unlocks and cities more or less form organically until you hit level 10 with them. Until that moment, you have to keep your little virtual citizens happy as well, with the usual stuff: don’t make their back yard face heavy industry.
Roads, zones, buildings and facilities are all easy to place and upgrade, and figuring out what goes where is fairly intuitive too. Some of the growth is semi-automated too, and it’s nice and relaxing to see progress without having to make and manage every decision for yourself – while also adding a more randomized element for replayability. And while the level of detail is certainly stripped back to accommodate what can be done in VR, there’s lots of little touches that make doing this fun, like animals that move in the sky and water.
Obviously, a lot of that is purely game design, but Little Cities also works well because it was built for VR. Instead of going for a ton of menus to monitor your city, a lot of the info you need can be seen from an in-game watch on your left arm. And both movement options and performance levels feel optimized for VR as well. If you have room for another city builder in your library, then definitely check this one out.
Tennis Manager 2022 review (PC)
This was certainly an interesting one to check out, because we had very little idea of what Tennis Manager 2022 from Rebound CG was going to be like. Over the years and decades we’ve played plenty of sports management games and modes, from football to Formula 1, but tennis is an individual sport so we were curious to see how they’d approach it.
Having since played it, we feel that the area in which the game excels most isn’t actually managing tennis matches, but rather the behind the scenes stuff that comes with it. You can choose to just focus on managing a star player, but this is simulation that’s much more involved if you choose to take care of an entire tennis school and everything that comes with it.
This means looking after a small roster of players with different levels of abilities, hiring the right staff members, selecting the correct training regiments for everyone and signing them up for the tournaments that are right for them. For your star players, you also have to manage things like the media and all kinds of special requests as well, so it can get pretty involved.
The actual tennis matches, by comparison, feel much more out of your hands – as we’re sure it is in real life as well. You can’t call for a timeout or set up tactics on a board at halftime here, so a lot of the time you feel that all you can do is offer words of encouragement. If your main draw in a sports management game is handling the performance on the court, then this may not be your kind of game. If you feel like getting involved with the complex matters that help set your players up for success, then (assuming you like tennis) this will be both insightful and fun for you.