When I first booted up TrackMania Turbo, I was a bit surprised to find myself thrown straight into the action within a matter of seconds. There were no tutorials, no elaborate controls to configure, and no tricks to learn. I was instantly racing on a wonderfully-rendered track with only the most basic of controls for moving, turning and braking. It was immensely satisfying as a quick, little burst of gameplay and equally refreshing for its lack of pretense.
The game falls into the more arcade-like spectrum of racing games, albeit with an eye to some truly sensitive physics. Players race on assorted short tracks which begin simple enough but quickly evolve into rounds of trial-and-error where a nanosecond makes the difference between a medal or failure. Speaking of medals, they’re not just for bragging rights, but are required to unlock more courses. TrackMania Turbo boasts an impressive collection of 200 such tracks, so you’ll have your work cut out for you if you wish to see anything beyond the introductory courses. If for some reason that’s still not enough for you, you can try your hand at creating your own tracks and share them online. There’s even a random track generator, ensuring constant surprises and cementing a high degree of replay value.
There are four vehicles on offer, each one with its own handling, grip, acceleration and overall feel. The first couple of cars are easy to control and a cinch to race in, but the remaining two feature highly sensitive controls and a steep learning curve to master. While I can appreciate a challenge, I found myself enjoying these far less than the original racers on offer.
Nonetheless, the overall enjoyment is not compromised. There’s a leveling system which is extremely straightforward and a breeze to master, if occasionally requiring a bit too much grinding. The aforementioned selection of tracks are extremely short, most of them lasting roughly between ten and thirty seconds. This is a double-edged sword, as the margin for error is drastically reduced – if you don’t gain a decisive advantage during the first few seconds, you’ve pretty much lost – while the frustration factor is severely neutered as racing fatigue is non-existent and restarting requires little sacrifice.
The real fun begins when you decide to tackle the tracks with other humans. There’s a double driver mode, allowing for two players to simultaneously control a single vehicle, essentially amounting to a video game version of three-legged racing. Best of all, there’s a split-screen mode, which seems like an essential addition many developers inexplicably miss. Finally, you may race online and compete against a stampede of ghosts, which turns out to be more amusing than completing the race itself.