Sunday, 17 July 2016

Trailblazer (Gizmondo review)

Developer: Gizmondo Studios Manchester
Publisher: Gizmondo Europe Ltd
Released: 2005
 

Trailblazer is an Arcade style racer and an updated version of the Commodore 64 game of the same name (1986).

 
There's 45 stages (split across Easy, Medium and Hard) and the objective is to reach the exit within a strict time limit. The Play button accelerates and you have three jumps per stage that can be executed with the R trigger. As you move along you must avoid falling off the track while dodging barriers that throw you backwards and red arrows that decrease your speed; on the other hand, you should hit the green acceleration strips and jump markers that launch you high into the air. You only have a single life and if you fail you restart at Stage 1! This brutal difficulty is the game's only real downside and its hard as nails nature means it's definitely not for the impatient! This is mainly due to the incredible speed your ball travels and the fact that most stages require memorisation rather than reactions; this results in a lot of trial and error but the gameplay is so enjoyable that you'll want to keep trying until you beat the stage or smash your previous time. Managing to slay a previously impossible stage is super rewarding and there's a real satisfaction when you advance a bit further. Each stage is a pure adrenaline rush and the short lengths make the action that much more intense. The level design is terrific and interestingly the layouts don't always challenge you to go full throttle; instead, there's some tight corners where you'll need to play more cautiously to avoid hazards. It all amounts to some very intelligent gameplay and design where everything just works beautifully. I love that there's different paths to beating each stage, especially as your best times are saved to incentivise you to try again.
 
Trailblazer is a fantastic update of the C64 classic and its rock-solid gameplay has an addictive quality that will keep you playing for a long time. The difficulty is a bit too high for my liking though and it's a real shame as most people won't see how clever the level design is in later stages.
 
 
 
Random trivia: In 2012, the game was released on the PlayStation Portable as part of the PSP Minis range.

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