We’ve gone hands-on with a surprising number of racing games at this year’s show, and Trailblazers has firmly established itself as a standout among them all. Developed by Supergonk and published by Rising Star Games, Trailblazers is a fast-paced, creative racer that challenges you to not only race well, but race strategically, because coming in first place doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win.
Trailblazers is essentially what happens when F-Zero and Splatoon fuse together. The game is a 3v3, team-based racer with a unique hook: you can paint the track! Driving along will fill your vehicle’s paint tank, at which point you can begin leaving paint trails in your wake as you drive. These trails give you a boost as you drive over your own team’s paint, and you can paint over the trails of your opponents as you all jostle for territory on the track. When the race is over, points are awarded based on the final race standings, as well as the amount of paint each team has on the track. So, if your team placed poorly but dominated in the painting game, you still stand a chance when all is said and done.
This means that races become more strategic almost by default. Instead of just concentrating on placing first, you must simultaneously keep track of the paint lines on the course and figure out how to make the most of your current position. The tracks are designed to give you many ways to approach these problems, and at times they will force you to prioritize painting over position – or vice versa. When your paint meter fills up, for example, you’ll have the option to lay down a huge paint line ahead of you. You’ll be painting less often by doing this, but you’ll end up laying down a lot of paint at once and gaining a big speed boost; this maneuver incurs risk as well, as crashing or bumping into walls will drain your paint meter completely. Glowing gates strewn throughout will cast a line of paint on the track ahead if you drive through them, but they are often placed on the outer edges of the course, so this may cost you time against someone taking the inside track.
Trailblazers makes a very strong impression with its unique twists on traditional racing gameplay. The controls are responsive and result in some satisfying driving. The paint mechanic adds some impressive depth to the gameplay, and the emphasis on territorial painting will make the game a little more accessible to people who aren’t big fans of racers. Fans of arcade-style racing titles should eat this one up, but its gameplay should appeal to those who don’t spend much time with the genre as well.
Trailblazers launches this spring on so, so many platforms – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, macOS, and Linux.