Trailblazer (PlayStation Minis) Review—Setting the Trail Ablaze

This game requires superhuman memorization skills. Still, it’s a fun, simple and colorful Mini. There is not much to complain about, except for its punishing difficulty and psychedelically nauseating graphics.

Trailblazer was originally a Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit and Amstrad CPC game, subsequently ported, in an unrevised form, to the Atari ST and Amiga. And then later, this game appeared for the Gizmondo. I don’t know anything about these systems; I just got this historical snippet from Wikipedia.

The PlayStation revamp of Trailblazer features amazing upbeat dance music that blends well with its sparkling, blazing graphics. At first, it looks like this Mini is a racing game, but it’s not. It’s an arcade game, a speedrun challenge mixed with an avoidance game at its core. However, it’s not that simple at all.

Trailblazer lets you control a single spinning wheel across a course, aiming to reach the end of the course while keeping on pace with the time constraints. There are obstacles and pitfalls that will make things challenging. Movement is done with with the D-pad, and you can jump by pressing the right shoulder button, popularly known as the R button.

What I love about Trailblazer is how the game gets harder as you progress, harder exponentially. I could have gotten lazy and curbed my expectations, given how seldom Minis appear in the Store nowadays, and with their overall quality being average except for a very few titles. But Trailblazer kept me on my toes for an extended time.

For the longest time (and I blame the SNK Minis for this), I hadn’t played a Mini with multiple game modes. Trailblazer, though, has several. Arcade Mode is actually more of a campaign mode, while Time Trial is more of a survival/practice mode using the tracks you ran on in the Arcade Mode. Also, Endurance can be unlocked through the course of your campaign.

This Mini is furious in terms of speed, and it gives me headaches. I can easily blame this on my deteriorating eyesight, but I am afraid for those who have epileptic tendencies. This game is flashy, with blinking lights and intense frames, so you might do well to be very careful in considering this game.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward; it’s just pass or fail. No health bars, no upgrade system, no enemies. Aside from the pitfalls, you only deal with color-coded hindrances or power-ups. Purple is an obstacle. Yellow is a jump pad. The green ones are acceleration pads, and red slows your vehicle down.

This is a skill-based game, and you have to bank on your skills early on. Extra time carries over to the next level, but once you get deep into the journey, you find your extra time nowhere but being spent outright.  Remember, when time runs out, it’s over. Also, the jumps are limited, so you must use them wisely per level. There are shortcuts, if you know where to look, and they are supernaturally helpful. In fact, for each track, you will have to retry and retry until you master it and determine the most optimized way of dealing with its obstacles and pitfalls.

You can choose the difficulty setting (hurray, choices!), but even at the easiest setting, it’s still not in the same breath as “easy.”

I can’t praise the graphics enough. Trailblazer is easily the best Mini when it comes to the pure graphics department (best game art, though, handily goes to everything Mediatonic, in my opinion). The controls are responsive, which is indeed the most important aspect for games like this.

Level design is commendable. In fact, you will never get bored because the stages are so varied. However, you need to be a quick thinker and have amazing reflexes to excel in this game. Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated more often than not.

Trailblazer could easily be a full PSN game, but we’re lucky it isn’t, in a sense. This is an excellent game with lots of value and a lengthy lifespan. The speedrun enthusiasts as well as those hardcore endurance gamers will drool over this game. Trailblazer is what a Mini should be. Unfortunately, several Minis have already exceeded the expectations of what a Mini should be, making Trailblazer’s great effort look like merely above-average.

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