TrackMania Turbo is an exciting and over-the-top arcade racer that plays like a Hot Wheels playset come to life. Full of blistering speeds and striking coloured supercars, it’s far from your ordinary racing sim. Quite similar to the time-attack campaign style of play seen in the Trials series, you’re not competing against AI cars but racing against the clock. It’s a game of skill as you must drift around u-turns, hitting ramps at the right speed, and ultimately reach the finish line in record time. It’s an excellent mix of high-octane cars and challenges that arcade fans and racing enthusiasts will enjoy.
The main menu offers a good variety of options to choose from, including Campaign, Online Racing, Track Builder, Multiplayer and the Garage mode for all your customisation needs. You begin with some basic paint jobs and flag art for the body of your car, but as you earn more gold medals, more mods become available. The campaign is the primary mode for furthering your progression in the game; you face the challenge of completing tracks and must win in record time to earn bronze, silver or gold medals. What you want to obtain is the gold medals as they unlock more tracks and customization options for vehicles. The whole game may be a mere three gigabytes to install, but there are so many tracks as well as content packed in this game that you’ll be playing for months. The four themed locations feature ten tracks and five difficulties; that’s 200 tracks in total – talk about wow!
The first few tracks are an excellent introduction to the game and are set in a desert location called ‘Canyon Grand Drift.’ It also introduces you to basic gameplay mechanics, such as drifting and the awareness of not holding the acceleration through the entire race. As you progress further into the game, the courses get a lot more thrilling with the induction of loops, obstacles and jumps. The advanced tracks also include a variety of environments and are named ‘Down & Dirty Valley,’ ‘Rollercoaster Lagoon’ and the ‘International Stadium.’ All the tracks throughout each theme not only change in appearance but also change up the track arrangement and vehicle you control. There are specific vehicles for the individual tracks you select in all of the themed locations. A stock car for the Canyon Grand Drift stages, a Beetle rally car for the Valley stages, and for the Stadium you control an F1-styled car.
Controlling the vehicles is simple enough, with no shifting required. It’s a basic control scheme of steer, gas and brake, which may seem linear, but the real challenge is the handling. The cars are sensitive to handle and no doubt you’ll be crashing into a few walls the first few tries. However, once you get the hang of the steering and sharpen your reflexes, you’ll come to understand the nature of the cars and get better with the controls. It’s important to rely on your reflexes because the later tracks are extremely fast and at times you may lose control in a split second.
There are moments where you’ll take long jumps and must maneuver around signs, so the racing often becomes a hectic but fun task of trying to keep your vehicle grounded. There is no rewind feature either, so one small mistake could cost you a chance at a gold medal. However, in saying that, there are quick buttons for restarting a checkpoint or the whole track if you want to complete the required time. Luckily, though, each level only takes about forty seconds to complete, so it’s not really a repetitive slog for many gamers.
The unique selling point of this game are the roller coaster tracks, though, as your vehicle essentially becomes part an amusement ride. The car gets sent into loops and twisting ramps that put your senses into a spin. These ridiculous tracks were by far my favourite; challenging my reflexes and making me feel as if Sonic the Hedgehog was running in a first-person perspective. There are also off-road tracks included with environmental hurdles such as puddles, shrubbery and dirt roads that add additional difficulty in staying on track.
I loved the overall presentation of the vehicles and environments; the visuals reminded me of Sunset Overdrive (with its cartoonish inspired art style and bright colour palette). You can tell this game draws inspiration from ’90s arcade racing; especially from the Sega series of racing games. From its main menu interface and insert coin message to the cars dropping from helicopters, it all had a very quintessential arcade charm about it. The decision to run it at 60 FPS was also a wise decision because the fast-paced visuals always run super smooth without a hiccup in sight.
In most racing games you would hope for a comprehensive multiplayer mode, and luckily TrackMania Turbo has that area covered. Multiplayer has many options for both online and local play, but the crowning addition for me is the four-player split screen mode; which, surprisingly, is a first for a next-generation racing game. If you’ve got two controllers and playing with a friend, TrackMania Turbo also features an interesting co-op mode called ‘Double Driver,’ in which you both must work together while controlling the same car to complete a race. The result is an experience that will put your communication skills to the test while creating a frustratingly fun and unique driving experience.
There are also plenty of customizations for your vehicles such as numbers, body paint, stickers and even a mascot. Although you’ll need to unlock gold medals to use them, this encourages you to keep playing, and get better overall to reap the rewards. The option to build tracks is a fantastic addition and adds even more replay value if you’ve completed all 200 tracks. You can make pretty much anything you want from a huge range of items to choose from, and the building creation menu is very user-friendly. You can quickly create a track in a few minutes or take your time to design a masterpiece to race on. A great feature I discovered was when you finished laying out your new track, the game fills in all the empty areas with the environments needed to complete the level.
TrackMania Turbo is a thrilling and stylish arcade racer that offers high speeds and bite-sized fun. The small tracks help to prevent the game from becoming exhausting (like with some racing simulators), though that doesn’t mean it’s not a challenging experience. The sense of speed is exhilarating, and the highly polished mechanics make you want to get better at the game and improve your skills. It’s safe to say that I can recommend this title to pretty much anyone; whether you’re a casual racer, a total car nut, or simply someone hosting a local co-op night with friends. TrackMania Turbo caters to all players by optimising simple gameplay, nail-biting challenges and fuel-injected entertainment.