There are a great many people out there who have a passion for cars--be it the admiration of a vehicle’s sleek design, it’s peak engineering, or simply taking it out on the open road. Driving video games like Forza and Gran Turismo capitalize on car enthusiasts by giving them the keys to a myriad collection of vehicles that can be tweaked six ways from Sunday. As someone who equates driving with going to work, I don’t hold much love for racing games unless its Burnout. Because of this, I found Tiny Trax to be more in my wheelhouse. Developed by FuturLab, Tiny Trax is a video game version of slot car racing, a hobby I dipped my toes into a few times as a child. It provides a racing experience distilled to its base elements (reach the finish line first to win) and still manages to be a lot of fun to play.
FuturLab did a great job with creating a fun, arcade racer that anyone can pick up and play. Driving the car around the track is easy: hold down the trigger to accelerate, steer the car with the analog stick. It’s a pretty basic setup. However, the real challenge lies in not oversteering the vehicle. During a race, your car is accompanied by a circle that offers a visual cue for how hard you’re steering the car. If the meter turns red, it gets stuck on the track and gives opponents more than enough time to leave you in the dust. Steering is important and so is the judicial use of boosting and drifting. At the start of the race, your car has a full tank of boost power and gaining it back is all a matter of drifting around sharp, rounded corners and turns. Drifting takes some getting used to as I found it really easy to oversteer into the turn and stop dead in the middle of the road. Practice it enough, though, and you’ll be unstoppable.
Tiny Trax can be played online with up to three human players or against AI. I couldn’t find anyone to play with online, so most of my races were done against bots. I still had fun despite my opponents being too good. Time and again, the AI cars were merciless in their fight to reach the finish line. Because they don’t have to worry about human error, the tiniest slip-up on my part was enough to put me far behind. Fighting tooth and nail to stay in the lead is exciting until you mess up and the rest of the race becomes a pathetic attempt to not finish last. It does feel rather unfair, and yet it made me motivated to develop my steering skills and learn the courses.
Oh, man--those courses! Easily my most favorite part of the game, they feature really fun and creatively designed themes: pirate infested waters, outer space, and a frozen tundra. Each course is made up of three race tracks that are more elaborate than the last. Tight turns, great verticality, loops, and fun environment flair combine to create a rich slot car racing experience. Initially, I thought that this game didn’t need to be a PSVR exclusive. With the camera locked directly in front of the race track, there’s really nothing stopping this from being a cool 2.5D PSN game. That said, I quickly found the value of having the headset function as the camera. It was during the more complex tracks that I learned to appreciate not having to fiddle with an extra analog stick or shoulder button to track my car’s rapid movement (the cars go really fast and demand attention) and potentially screw up a drift.
Not only did FuturLab make a fun game to play, they made a really great looking one, too! I love the bright, vivid colors and the courses are charming. The pirate theme features races set inside a treasure cove, a pirate ship, and even underwater. The third outer space track is lunacy in its design with sharp turns, coiled ramps, and a quick jaunt through a biodome. The mountain stages are great, too! Ah, hell, I loved each course! It’s a shame that there are only three main cup races. While the content is great, there isn’t enough of it and once you beat each race cup, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
Tiny Trax is a lot more fun than I expected it to be. With only three championship races and an all star cup race (which pulls two tracks from each course), it’s a little light on content. That didn’t bother me too much, though, because of how fun the content is to play. Ongoing support via new courses would be a treat, but what I really want to see added is a track editor. There are a lot of talented and patience content creators out there in video game land, and I bet they could produce some stellar race tracks using in-game assets. Tiny Trax is a celebration of slot car racing, and with its great track design and worthy adversaries, I didn’t realize how much fun I was having until I stopped.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.