Tiny Trax is made by FuturLab, the developers behind excellent arcade shoot ’em ups, Velocity and its sequel. Compared through trailers, you might think their latest creation was something of a breather; a vivid tribute to the Scalextric toys from your childhood that wouldn’t require the obsessive skill, patience, concentration and dexterity needed to master its previous two titles.
But that really isn’t the case.
Though its bold colors and pleasant environments might recall the casual multiplayer thrills of a Micro Machines game, there’s an addictive and demanding core at the heart of this miniature racer. Instead of just squeezing the DualShock 4’s trigger and balancing speed against sharp corners, you’ll have to steer your micro vehicle around every corner with pinpoint precision using the analogue stick. Apply another pressure and you’ll drift around with the ease of a Need for Speed game. Get it wrong, however, and your car will come to a screeching halt, more than likely costing a few positions within the race.
Not only that, but you’ll have to memorize tracks, knowing when to switch between one of two lanes to get the inside path on corners and overtake opponents. Tiny Trax is a game that requires every mite of your attention for its five laps races; you need to know exactly what corner is coming up and how much you need to turn for it, and then you need to instantly refocus and move onto the next curve. There’s no time for celebrating a successful swerve and only a fleeting few moments to check the lap count every so often, otherwise you’ll kill your speed with a click of the finger and it can all be over.
Fueling all of this is the game’s boosting mechanic, which is built up by turning corners perfectly and then quickly depleted. It’s another little layer on top of everything else to consider, but it’s essential for getting ahead in the right moments and not losing ground in the straight stretches. With all this to consider, the game can often be a little overwhelming, especially when you need to keep everything up for five laps (which last anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds).
But here’s the vital point: it’s worth getting good at it.
Once you find yourself getting to grips with Tiny Trax’s unique brand of racing you really start to appreciate the minute detail behind the game’s mechanics. I can’t think of many racers, VR or otherwise, that require this kind of thrilling precision. Whether it meant to or not FuturLab has bottled the essence of its arcade shooters and fused it with the racing genre to create something quite unlike anything that’s come before. You’ll know what I mean when you find yourself in first place and your heart is pumping as the pressure mounts not to lose to the lead. One slip up and it can all go to ruin.
If it all sounds a little much, though, I need to stress this is all verses AI; opponents that simply calculate the perfect angles and then pull them off without concern. This is that rare type of game where you’ll actually take comfort in the human error of multiplayer gameplay. In time Tiny Trax will no doubt breed an elite community of racers that will be able to zig and zag through the game’s 12 tracks without fault, but it’s hugely reassuring to take part in races where you see others messing up just as much as you.
Multiplayer is definitely where you’ll spend the most time anyway, considering the game only has four single-player cups to its name that can be seen through in under an hour. Getting gold in all of these cups is another matter entirely, but the lack of solo options does bring the experience down.
It’s also a shame that there isn’t a local multiplayer element to enjoy. It’s perfectly understandable, but this could have been a winning example of PSVR’s social screen functions. While you could probably play the game with a 2D monitor with some tweaking, it absolutely thrives inside PSVR. These are the Scalextric tracks you dreamed of building as a kid, come to life before your heads. Tracks bend and weave around the world, diving into oceans and jumping over snowy wastes. You’ll drive along ceilings and up the walls, occasionally needing to duck to get a better glimpse of the action.
Don’t let Tiny Trax’s steep learning curve put you off what’s an otherwise compelling and addictive racer. FuturLab has managed to capture the rewarding mechanical finesse that made its Velocity titles so much fun to play and apply it to an entirely different genre that can be enjoyed with friends. If you’re adamant about not playing online then there’s not much here for you, but if you put the time in you’ll find a whole new obsession for your PSVR.