I remember slot car race tracks from when I was a kid. They were really cool, but they could be finicky. Hit the gas too hard or take a corner with too much speed and your car would be stopped in its tracks as a result of a jam or the car coming off the track.
Tiny Trax for PlayStation VR seeks to capture this classic style of racing in virtual reality with insanely cool tracks. Does it stay the course, or does it hit the corner too hard and fly off track? Read on to find out!
A Strong Premise for Racing in VR
The concept behind Tiny Trax is very interesting. Racing games are a dime-a-dozen these days, but this one offers the unique slot car angle, and VR as well. Instead of putting the camera on your car, which could have been nauseating, the developers made the smart decision to place the player in a static position where they can see the track.
Tiny Trax offers twelve tracks in total across three different cups. The controls fall into the “easy to learn, difficult to master” category. Beyond the ability to change lanes, you can also drift around corners. This mechanic works by tilting the left stick as you approach a turn. You need to fill a meter without going overboard, at which point your car will stall and sit in place.
If you fill the meter to a small zone on the end and hold it there, you’ll also accrue boost that can be used by holding the X button. Using these mechanics, you’ll journey through distinct levels that fall into three distinct themes like beaches and pirates, ice and fire, and space levels.
Tiny Trax is difficult and there’s no option to turn that down. It offers online multiplayer as well, which can honestly be easier than going up against the formidable AI opponents.
With the concept in place, let’s find out how Tiny Trax fares when put into action!
Intense Racing and Tough Opponents
The first thing that I noticed when I played Tiny Trax was how intense the difficulty was. A short and simple tutorial taught me all of the basics, but my first foray into the opening tracks left me in dead last every time.
The controls are tight and responsive, but learning that perfect balance when you’re taking corners requires some serious practice. It’s pretty sensitive, but striking the balance becomes even more difficult when you’re taking the inside track versus the outer one.
If you push the meter too far, the car stops in place until you get it back in the green. The strategy involves picking which lane is best for the situation. You’ll get more speed if you’re in the inner lane, but those turns will be more difficult as a result. It’s a risk/reward system that can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
When you’re drifting, pushing the meter to the limit charges your boost, which you’ll need to use almost constantly if you want to get first place. Red and white borders in each level signify where each turn begins and ends, which will help you prepare for those drifts.
It feels great, but it’s also very easy to mess up and stop in place. What makes Tiny Trax so difficult, is the fact that the AI opponents seem to never mess up their turns, which makes them incredibly hard to beat. One mistake can easily put you back several spots. That’s not to say it’s impossible to win, but it’s going to be very difficult.
Tiny Trax is far more difficult than its looks would have you believe. Some options for different difficulties would have been really welcome for casual players, but if you enjoy a challenge, you’ll find it here in spades.
The twelve tracks are all varied and visually exciting. They each have their own unique touches like gravity-defying turns, underwater transitions, or jumps that happen right before your eyes. While they are all very well designed, having only twelve means that you’ll see everything in an hour or two.
The game lets you try all the levels from the outset, so you won’t need to worry about winning each cup to unlock the next one.
You’ll also be able to choose from different cars and colors, but they don’t seem to have extremely different stats. This is a quick racer that allows you to jump in and get started, which I appreciated, but a little more depth to the cars or perhaps some power-ups would have added more to the experience.
A few more tracks, or maybe one more cup could have added some more longevity to the game, but there’s no denying that the content here is very well designed and implemented. Everything that is here works very well and makes for a fun and engaging racer. A little more content, be it tracks, additional depth to the vehicles, or power-ups which have really sealed the deal.
It’s a shame there aren’t difficulty options as the curve will probably turn off casual players. If you’re ready for the challenge, it’s certainly a wild ride.
Beautiful Graphics and Excellent Perspective
The first thing I noticed when I started playing Tiny Trax, was the excellent VR implementation. The fixed perspective gives you a perfect view of the track. Your car has the boost meter and drift meter displayed on it throughout the race, so you’ll never lose track of where you are in the level.
Being able to look around and see the whole track before you is an excellent touch. The positioning of the camera also gives you good views of the track’s highlights like jumps or loops. The tracks themselves pop with a bunch of color and detail. The added depth from VR really makes them come alive as you play.
From a visual perspective, Tiny Trax absolutely nails it. This is one of those experiences that makes an argument for VR in a big way. Outside of VR, it just wouldn’t have the same effect. While the racing mechanics and controls are all solid as well, the lack of additional mechanics and the lower number of tracks brings down the replay value.
Finally, the intense difficulty curve is great for people who don’t mind putting in the practice needed to get better, but for casual players who see the colorful graphics, it could be a shock to the system when they expect things to be easier.
As of this writing, a patch is currently being reviewed for release that is expected to lower the difficulty in the first cup. This should help new players find their footing, but don't expect Tiny Trax to just roll over for you.
For those who can handle the difficult learning curve, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. A little more content or depth would have gone a long way, along with difficulty options, but that doesn’t stop this from being a great VR title in its own right.
Final Score: 7.5/10
A copy of Tiny Trax was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 8/3/17