Arts & CultureVideo Games

Review: ‘Trackmania Turbo’ brings childhood car fantasies to life

As a kid, I adored Hot Wheels. The little, toy cars came in every style imaginable, could be sped through impossible tracks at insane speeds and cost next to nothing. In my imagination, I would be the driver of a car that could make mile-long jumps, conquer loops as high as skyscrapers and come out the other end unscathed. For those who shared these dreams, the Trackmania series on PC has long been a symbol of hope. Wild tracks, easy creation tools and a bountiful community made the game an international smash hit. Despite the success, the series hasn’t properly made the jump to consoles. That hasn’t stopped Ubisoft from making an attempt with Trackmania Turbo, now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

As implied, Trackmania Turbo is a racing game with a focus on wild, physically impossible courses. Each new track is filled with hairpin turns, wild jumps and blistering speeds that give you the narrowest of windows to avoid complete destruction. Rather than race directly against other cars, this is a game of time trials. Every one of Turbo’s 200-plus tracks is a smartly designed puzzle, begging for you to find and execute the solution that gets you from A to B in the shortest period of time. Perfectly race, drift and leap your way into the best time, and you’ll earn a medal. More medals means more tracks, which means more hours spent lying to yourself: “just one more track.” 

This is all complimented by pumping French house music – and a maddening neon aesthetic. It’s easy to make a car model look good with modern gaming horsepower, but Trackmania Turbo’s bold colors and absurd designs help it stand out. Glowing signs, billboards and general insanity litter the screen, but all somehow fit together. No game in the Trackmania series has ever brimmed with this much style, though the transition to console may leave some older fans wanting.

Past entries in the series were far more unhinged than Turbo. The previous game, Trackmania 2 (still available on PC for a cold $5), boasted mods, custom soundtracks and bizarre occurrences aplenty; this was a game where you could drive Fred Flintstone’s car while blasting dubstep remixes of Star Wars tunes. Turbo trades real insanity for a watered-down impression of it. And it’s not just chaos that got lost in the transition. User created tracks in Turbo are a nightmare to share with other players and limited to the platform of their creation, killing any potential for a real community of players. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of Trackmania, Turbo is a wonderful introduction to this franchise. Lacking in features but highly polished, this is an instantly digestible game for any speed demon. But if you’ve already spent any time with this series, Turbo is likely to disappoint.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter, @ChrisBerg25

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg