Developer FuturLab are known for their incredible 2D puzzle and action games, so it makes sense that their latest title is a 3D racing game exclusively for PlayStation VR. Wait. Actually it makes no sense. To say that Tiny Trax came out of left field is an understatement, but it provides a great opportunity for the talented English developer to prove that their talents can translate to new genres.
While it’s certainly a drastic change in direction for the studio, Tiny Trax shares some key characteristics with their past titles. Just like Surge and Velocity 2X, there’s a tremendous art style that really manages to pop off the screen (even more so in this case considering it’s in virtual reality). The slot car racer takes full advantage of the virtual realm as players have to look around to see the winding curves of the track, and cars will regularly whizz by your face. It’s an incredibly cool trick to see once, and I loved getting to see these ridiculous looking slot car tracks brought to life.
It also features the tight controls and level of depth that one would expect from a FuturLab joint, despite it being a pretty simple game to control. There are only four actions that the player can do: accelerate, shift lanes, turn, and trigger nitrous. That may seem limited to someone that hasn’t played Tiny Trax, but it all builds to a game that is the definition of being easy to pick up, yet absolutely devious to master.
The first thing that I noticed while playing Tiny Trax was that the racing game was difficult. In my first race I ended up coming in dead last. I had gone through a tutorial that taught me all the basics, but actually implementing all of the skills I had learned was a whole different ball game. The main reason for my poor performance was that I was absolutely terrible at drifting.
Drifting is absolutely the heart and soul of Tiny Trax. When going around a corner an on-screen bar will appear, as long as the player can tilt the left analog stick of the DualShock 4 controller enough to hit the green spot then they’ll gain valuable nitrous that they’ll need to pass opponents. However, if they tilt a bit too far then the car will stall out and stop moving on the track. Finding the perfect balance to go around corners gracefully takes some track time and once I got the hang of it I was able to come in third place rather than dead last.
Further nuance is found in switching lanes, as cars can go around corners faster if they’re on the inside route. The action goes by quick in Tiny Trax, so asking the player to balance lane changes while also making sure they don’t mess up a turn is no small ordeal. Despite not winning a single race in my first several hours with the game, I kept becoming a better racer. It was a satisfying learning curve, and while I still rarely win a race against the AI (I ended up faring slightly better against friends online), I’m pretty much a lock for second place.
Tiny Trax Review (PSVR) - PlayStation LifeStyle
While FuturLab really nailed the gameplay of Tiny Trax, I really wish there was more content. There are only twelve tracks in the game (split into themed worlds of beach, ice and space) which means that it only takes an hour or so to see everything that has been crafted. That doesn’t mean that the game ends there, as I was nowhere near having every gold medal in the game after an hour and there are online leaderboards to try to master, but it could really use an additional four tracks at the very least.
It’s also disappointing that the game doesn’t have any difficulty options. This could’ve helped its content problem, as going through each cup on varying difficulties would’ve given more of a natural progression to the game. As it currently stands, players just have to retry the same races until they get better, and that understandably might not be everyone’s jam.
It’s been awhile since I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed a learning curve in a racing game. Tiny Trax hides a highly challenging racer behind its charming presentation, and I’ve enjoyed going from nearly being lapped to occasionally winning races. The only thing that really holds the game back is a lack of content and options, as there are only three cups of tracks to master, but FuturLab definitely has a winner in the gameplay department.
Tiny Trax review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.