for PC (Windows)

Mr Creosote:
Company: ShadowBit Interactive
Year: 2004
Genre: Sport, Action
Theme: Abstract / Driving / Individual Sports / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 19515
Review by Mr Creosote (2007-04-21)

Gremlin's classic arcade game Hustle remains one of the most played classics today, although you might not know it under that name and it has mostly lost its place on desktop computers. It has moved to smaller devices like mobile phones, and it's usually called Snake.

In spite of its try at a background plot about the protagonist's shaceship crashing on a remote planet and being forced to participate in races to earn the money to get back home, Trailblazer strays not very far from its roots when one looks under the hood. At least there aren't any annoying wise-guy kids and equally annoying 'creatures' talking strangely. Mesa very relieved story irrelevant during game. And you're also not flying around on the Brandenburg Gate, so the Master Control Program won't interfere, either.

Cryptic movie references aside and back to the game. In a rectangular arena framed by solid outer walls, three hovercars are driving around, trying to force the others to crash. Whoever manages to survive wins. Of course, nobody will drive into the walls on purpose, so the opponents will try to force this to happen. In addition, each car leaves a trail behind (hence the title) where it recently went. Hitting this trail doesn't kill instantly, but just detracts from one's energy bar, but once that is depleted, it's game over, too.

The price money can be spent on travelling to the nearest planet, and there will be more races in the same style there. Just tougher opponents, so your own ride needs expensive upgrades, too. Better armor, more velocity, a longer trail? Or maybe a completely new vehicle? Wasn't the money supposed to go into the ticket home? Well, call it an investment.

Like every variant, this one has its pros and cons. The points where Trailblazer scores have already been touched on: not dying immediately when hitting someone's trail and upgrading. The latter might not really be a new idea, but it's still always good to appeal to the player's collector instinct - even if it's just more and more of the same.

What's desperately missing from the game is, as so often, change. The planets just provide different graphical backgrounds for the races, but in the end, it's always the same rectangular area without even any obstacles or walls (just empty space). Also, there aren't any dynamic elements in the course of the race - no pills / numbers / whatever to swallow like in many other similar games, for example. And why no energy / armor upgrades lying around?

Last, but not least, some words about the technical aspects. This game has exceptionally high system requirements (ix86/600MHz, 128MB RAM, MS Windows>=98SE), so make sure your computer is up to it before you download.

You can choose between different graphical perspective during the races. It may be unfair to critisize that, since they could as well have been not included, but they are, so here it is: all but the top-down view are completely useless! All these pseudo-3D views make the game unplayable for the simple reason that you have no chance of seeing what's going on behind you. With no overview at all, you can never know whether you're already driving into a trap laid by an opponent and you can certainly never lure the others into their doom. So what you're left with is pointless driving hoping the other players will somehow crash into each other or something so that you'll win by chance. It might look good on the screenshots, but that's it. Are there really people who consider '3D' modelling mandatory for a game these days, even without any point?

As usual, I'm finishing with the disadvantages of a game, which I've been told isn't a clever way to 'sell' to the readers. Once again, I'm being evil towards all those who don't read the entire review, but just skip immediately to the conclusion! So here's the inevitable final paragraph:

In the end, Flynn distracts the MCP so that the saviour can throw his disc through a gap in the shield. The digital world comes alive after the MCP's defeat. I/O towers light up all over the landscape, and the Programs rejoice in the fact that their world has become a free system. They ponder Flynn's fate, but Flynn is sent back to the real world, the laser re-materializing him at the terminal. [Wikipedia]

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