Tiny Trax is one of those games that’s just really good, y’know? Velocity 2X developer FuturLab rarely ever disappoints, and its PlayStation VR debut is predictably spot-on. A vibrant Scalextric-style slot racer, this arcade delight places you inside 12 fantasy dioramas and hands you control of one of several miniature vehicles, with your task being to secure a podium place. It’s simplistic, sure – but it’s also an absolute joy to play.
While most developers are leveraging virtual reality for first-person experiences, the award-winning Brighton studio instead shows restraint. You sit statically as the title’s colourful race courses surround you. In order to follow your car, you’ll need to physically look at the various fantasy roads that the studio has designed; sometimes you’ll be gazing down at the ground as the track takes you deep under water, and other times you’ll need to glance over your shoulder as you speed through a cyberpunk shopping centre.
It’s such a simple idea, but it’s bordering on genius. Because everything in PlayStation VR is presented using stereoscopic 3D, there’s impressive depth to the image – and you can tell the team’s really tried to incorporate as many layers as possible to make the scenes appear dazzlingly deep. This effect is at its most impressive when cars move towards you, because it creates an exciting sense of speed that’s exhilarating to observe.
The course design is excellent – both in terms of layout and art direction. While there may only be a dozen tracks in total, every one feels unique – even if some subscribe to a similar theme. There are colourful tropical stages which hark back to the days of Coconut Dodge, as well as icy climes and cyberpunk scenery. But each individual level has a hook: whether it’s a loop-the-loop or some symmetry, every course has its own personality.
And that makes the act of actually playing all the more engaging. As already alluded, the gameplay itself is agonisingly easy to pick-up, but mastering the mechanics will take hours of effort. All you need to do is accelerate, steer, and boost – but the catch is that in order to navigate corners, you’ll have to find the right angle to corner without losing your momentum. This is all aided by some smart user interface design and outstanding use of rumble – you can quite literally “feel” the sweet spot through the DualShock 4. It’s impressive.
You’ll also need to master lane switching in order to shave milliseconds off your best times and dominate online; taking a corner wide is fine, but you’ll move through it quicker if you hug it as closely as possible. Be sure to hold the drift long enough, too, because every moment that you’re successfully cornering you’ll be earning boost, which can then be expended on straights to increase your maximum speed.
While anyone can understand the rules of the game within seconds, it took us a good hour before we even earned our first single player medal. The campaign is divided up into four tournaments and single races, and all of your best times are instantly uploaded to online leaderboards which you can compare with your friends. Earning podium positions will reward you with medals, and it’s going to take you quite a bit of practice to get golds on them all. Should you master the offline component, though, there’s online multiplayer to keep you occupied beyond that.
It may not sound like a huge amount of content, and it’s not – but FuturLab’s mercifully scrubbed PlayStation VR Tax from its title’s price, and so the £10-plus that you’ll end up paying feels fair for what you’re getting. Perhaps the bigger disappointment is that the included tracks are simply so delightful that you’ll be left longing for more – we’re secretly hoping that the developer has a DLC pack or two planned, because we’d happily pay for more.
Tiny Trax is a beautifully presented arcade racer which leverages PlayStation VR in an original and intelligent way. Clever use of layers gives the illusion of impressive depth to its dozen or so courses, and smart game design means that the title’s extremely accessible but still challenging to master. Our only gripe is that we wished there was more of it, but the release is fairly priced and honestly a must-have if you want to experience something a little different in virtual reality.