If Velocity and its sequel Velocity 2X taught us anything, it’s that developer Futurlab is more than a dab hand at reinvigorating classic arcade design with a contemporary veneer. So it is then that Tiny Trax follows in such footsteps, by taking the simple though enjoyable spectacle of slot car racing (think Scalextric), Futurlab have brought the whole concept kicking and screaming into 2017 through the possibilities afforded by PSVR.
A bright, colourful and enjoyable racer
Befitting a Futurlab title, Tiny Trax is immensely easy to pick up and play from the get go as you pick your slot car, choose your track and then off you go with little fuss. It’s worth noting, that even though you can choose different vehicles before each race, they all handle similarly and the lack of any sort of upgrade system means that each race is always solely contested on the basis of player skill alone; something that purists will surely appreciate.
Speaking of skill, the very nature of slot car racing means that rather than dealing with a more comprehensive car handling model, you need only worry about executing drift turns, acceleration and using your turbo whenever you can. While the handling is definitely welcoming for newcomers and not without masterful nuance for longer term players, pitting yourself against CPU controlled racers can sometimes seem unfairly punishing as your AI foes manage perfect turns and boosts on every corner, while even the slightest failure on your part results in you falling further behind the pack than you perhaps should.
Despite such seeming unfairness, the maxim here is perseverance. As difficult and punishing as pulling off perfect turns appears to be at first, there is a definite knack to doing it and it’s something that you’ll invariably get better at over time. Ultimately revealing itself as a finely tuned handling system, each time you head into a corner a golf-style swing meter appears where you must balance your drift so that the turning indicator remains within the hot zone at all times.
The benefits to doing these drifts properly is that not only do you get around each bend smoothly and efficiently, but the longer you keep the slide steady and within the zone on the swing meter, the more turbo boost you accumulate, thus allowing you to shrink the lead of the cars in front of you or expand it in relation to the ones behind. It’s a great handling system all told, and one that provides ample incentive to master its deceptive nuances.
Away from the single-player trappings of the career mode where new tracks can be unlocked through repeat play, Tiny Trax arguably fares better in its online multiplayer portion. Certainly here, it’s difficult not to be immersed in Tiny Trax unique brand of fun as the game’s tremendously pure, arcade style racing beats shine through and the spirit of competition becomes keenly felt as everyone visibly (and audibly) fights for every drift on every corner.
Given just how satisfying Tiny Trax is to play, it’s a shame that there isn’t a wider selection of modes to build upon the game’s resoundingly solid foundations. As it is, you have the career mode (which is just one race after another played over different tracks), single race and the aforementioned mutliplayer shenanigans, and that’s pretty much it. Of course, additional content may well be added by way of post launch DLC, but as it is, Tiny Trax can often feel like an overly lean effort indeed.
Somewhat disappointingly too, despite being lauded for its VR implementation, I’m not entirely convinced that Tiny Trax actually needs PSVR in order to exist. You see, the extent of VR in the game merely casts you as roving spectator, with PSVR’s head tracking being leveraged to allow you to look in and around the track. The problem is, when you’re actually engaged in the all-consuming act of racing, you really haven’t got the time or the inclination to start peering around the environment as sweepingly as the game wants you to. As such, this makes the use of VR in Tiny Trax feel more like ocular gimmickry, rather than anything more meaningful than that.
Nonetheless, there is still a fair amount of charm to Tiny Trax peering perspective during its less frenetic moments such as prior to a race, or during a replay. Peering under the water on a half-submerged track still remains a cool moment to experience, as does craning your neck around a waterfall or through a cave entrance; and for this fact alone kids who get stuck into Tiny Trax will no doubt find themselves hopelessly and blissfully beguiled.
And this is where the appeal of Tiny Trax will lay for those of us who tinkered with Scalextric sets at Christmas and beyond in our formative years; Futurlab have done cracking job of bringing those joys to life in a range of visually opulent scenarios that we could only have dreamed of, and for that their latest PS4 effort will fill a special hole that no other title really can.
An entertaining slot racer bolstered by some vibrantly colourful visuals, Tiny Trax use of VR is shallower than it initially seems and the overall offering doesn’t quite match the calibre of their Velocity titles.
Nonetheless, the equal parts challenging and satisfying handling model proves sufficient to keep players engaged; a fact that is compounded by the hugely entertaining competitive multiplayer offering which Tiny Trax provides.