Racing games and virtual reality have gone hand in hand over the last few years, but Futurlab’s take on this particular combo is not like the rest. You’re not putting yourself in the cockpit of a ludicrously expensive car, but sat a few feet away from a little slot-racer, watching on from a distance as it whizzes around the tracks. It’s Scalextric in VR, but not like you’ve seen it before.
While it might look a lot like Scalextric and other generic knock off slot-racers, Tiny Trax plays an awful lot differently. Where Scalextric is all about controlling the speed of the car through corners, Tiny Trax puts the emphasis on being able to corner at full speed. You’ll be holding the accelerator all the way through the race, making use of whatever boost you have down the straights and trying to tilt the left analogue stick almost, but not quite all the way to the side in order to drift round corners and gain more boost.
It’s tricky to get the hang of, that’s for certain, and the corners often come thick and fast, mixing quarter turns, half turns, spirals and more in an almost rhythmic fashion, and you’re trying to flick the stick back and forth just the right amount. Overcook your turn and you’ll lose speed as you skid to a halt, which has the knock on effect of both not giving you boost through that part of the turn and then also making you want to use boost to try and catch up. On top of that, you can shift between the two lanes, gunning for the inside line on each corner, and thankfully not having to worry about crashing or detaching from the track.
Each track is really brought to life with a fantastic style and panache, taking you from sandy beaches to outer space. These aren’t plain Scalextric tracks that sit flat in front of you either, they arc up walls, they pull audacious loop the loops, they have the little slot-cars racing around upside down, have them make splooshing sounds as they go underwater. The laws of physics have been thrown out the window, and there’s some wonderfully inventive track design because of this.
Whether you’re sat down or standing as you play, you’re treated to some gorgeous visuals through a few loose themes. The standouts are those that pay homage to Futurlab’s previous games, and one that could easily be out of a Tron film, but they all wrap around you, keeping you engaged as you follow your car up, down, left, right, in, out and around. It’s honestly just a lot of fun looking around at the tracks the first time you see them, taking in the path that your little car is about to be trying to follow, trying to spot the little in jokes and cool features that Futurlab have snuck in.
One difficulty is that this particular driving mechanic combined with not having different speed classes or difficulty levels means that the game is not a pick up and play experience. You need to be able to recognise the key hook to the controls and want to learn and master them for the opening hour to be fun, which I was able to do, but other TSA writers really struggled with.
On the one hand, you’ll have seen all the tracks just as you’re starting to get the hang of the game, but on the other, this difficulty gives the game more than a little bit of replay value, if you seek it. Simply being able to consistently challenge for first place, let alone managing to win with a seamless race where you nail every corner, doing so race in, race out. If you fancy chasing after the various trophies to grab the game’s platinum trophy, you’ll be learning each track inside and out.
Twelve tracks might feel light in the wake of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or forthcoming racing games with dozens of tracks, but Tiny Trax is well priced at £12.99 (with a further launch discount), especially considering the smaller pool of potential buyers on PSVR. You might have seen every track after 40-odd minutes, but you won’t have mastered them all.
The game lets you race against AI in single races and cups, take on time trails and post your times to global leaderboards, but you can also race head to head in four player multiplayer. The game of skill comes to the fore here, and someone that has mastered the tracks will race off into the distance never to be caught.
Once you get the hang of Tiny Trax, it’s a fantastic little racer that demands you learn the tracks, perfect every corner, and know exactly when to boost in order to win. Some people might stall while getting over the initial hump of learning the handling, others when contemplating the amount of content in the game, but get past that and you’ll find a slot-racer for the VR generation.