Trailmakers (Xbox One) Review

By Nikola Suprak 11.11.2019

Review for Trailmakers on Xbox One

There was something almost magical about a stack of LEGOs during childhood. These represented endless possibility, and from the chaos of a random handful of blocks could come anything; from a castle, or a race car, to an oblong monstrosity because following the instructions was for suckers. There hasn't been a game that has quite captured that same magic just yet, and even the LEGO games have never really managed to get what made the blocks so special. Trailmakers, a car creation/racing title originally released on Steam, and recently brought over to Xbox One, gets surprisingly close. While it may not be perfect, it gives a really well put together vehicle creation component of the gameplay that manages to push it through any of its rougher patches.

The bread and butter of Trailmakers comes from its vehicle customization. It hearkens back to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts but better, so anyone who played that in the past should largely know what to expect. There are a bunch of blocks that can be mushed together to make a car or boat or plane, or literally any other shape that could be possibly wanted. Afterwards, things like engines or propulsion can be thrown on the back to make them go. There are a ton of different pieces that can be used to build just about anything, and depending on what mode is selected, they might all be unlocked at the beginning, or there may only be a handful available at first and everything else must be unlocked. If not feeling particularly creative, there are tons of creations from other people that can be downloaded and used instead. That really goes against the spirit of the game though, and this is mainly for those looking for some sort of creative outlet.

The vehicle creation here is fantastic, both in terms of the options and the ease of putting things together. A lot of times in games like this, customization can become cumbersome, making putting together anything difficult. Not in Trailmakers. Here, slapping together a vehicle feels almost effortless, and it is as simple as accessing the menu and dragging around the pieces. The customization is somehow both deep and simple to execute, making it about as good as possible. Checking through the downloadable options, it is easy to get inspired and the things people put together vary from mildly interesting to absolutely insane, and it really demonstrates just what can be done with the editing tools they've provided here. It is easy to start putting something together and then lose all track of time just playing around with all of the various options. This is almost worth its price just for this alone, and anyone with a creative knack will want to check this out.

Screenshot for Trailmakers on Xbox One

It goes beyond just the creation tools though, as everything about the customization is simple and intuitive. When the vehicle eventually breaks (which it will do frequently), it takes a simple button push to put it back together. Even better, the creation flows seamlessly into the actual game. It is simple to optimize any vehicle, and it makes customizing any creation even more enjoyable. You'll be creating a vehicle, jump right in to test it, and then immediately go back into the customization menu to tweak things and make the vehicle run even better. It takes a matter of seconds to swap out engines, change the shape of the vehicle, or alter it in any other way to make it run better (or just look cooler).

It is one thing to have a good vehicle creation menu - what this does better than any other similar title that's been released in the past is to integrate that into the actual gameplay. Here, things don't feel so separated, like you're building something and then going into the gameplay afterwards. One flows into the other, and they build off each other in such a way that jumping back and forth feels tremendously rewarding.

While it is possible to get lost in the customization, this is also a racing title. There are a lot of options spread out between all of the different modes, but they are essentially all variations on racing of some sort. The vehicles can race on the ground, in the water, or through the sky, but the overall mechanics are largely the same regardless of where the race is occurring. A lot of these races occur in the form of time trials, where the vehicle will need to reach a specific gate within a specific time limit and in order to start over you will need to go back to the very first gate. It is simple in concept, and largely works because of how well the vehicle creation aspect of the game works. Design the car of your dreams, and take it down to a track to test it out. There is some minor exploring or puzzle solving as times as well, but the main part of the game is certainly the racing.

Screenshot for Trailmakers on Xbox One

The racing is good and a decent amount of simple fun, but it can get a bit boring after this is played for an extended period of time. For all the polish that went into the customization aspect, it doesn't quite feel like the same love and care was put into the racer aspect. Part of this is likely to allow for some flexibility in variations in creations. Whatever monstrosity that gets trotted out needs to run in some fashion, so the controls aren't going to be as tight as precise as in the top tier racing games - however, at the same time the physics and controls always feel just a bit off. Things are too loose, and it never really feels like you have full control over the vehicle.

On top of that, it all feels a bit too basic. The racing itself isn't particularly special, and the tracks aren't really noteworthy in anyway. If this was any other racer, boredom would set in quickly, and everyone would quickly move on to the next thing. What saves this, again, is the customization. Even though the racing is just fine, "just fine" is all that is really needed here. A bit more complexity or depth would have been appreciated, but since the focus is on creation and editing any number of vehicles, it is best to think of these tracks as a means to an end where really they're just testing how well each individual creation works.

Screenshot for Trailmakers on Xbox One

While there is a lot of freedom in sandbox mode, and for those looking to play multiplayer, there are also a couple of good modes here for people looking for a bit more structure. Stranded in Space is probably the closest thing to a story mode, and it offers a pretty big deviation from the others on offer. Here, a poor astronaut manages to crash his ship, leaving him stranded (on a planet and not in space like the title promises). The parts available at the very start are extremely basic, but as the land is explored, more and more pieces of equipment can be found. Some of these allow building better vehicles to get across more difficult terrain, while others are used to fix the spaceship. This is much more exploration-focused, and the different goal allows for a different approach to the gameplay. It can get somewhat boring after a while, and just sort of wandering around isn't as much fun as the other stuff that can be done in here.

Trailmakers Rally is a bit more in line with the other modes. Once again only basic parts are available at the start, but as more races are won, new and better blocks and pieces will be unlocked. It allows for a bit better progression than some of the other game modes, although the end goal here is the same. This is essentially all races, where you can build and upgrade the vehicle in between missions. The limitation in pieces works fairly well in this mode, especially with so many other modes that are more freeform. It forces a bit more ingenuity with what is on hand and players can't just start off with the best vehicles right away. All in all, the variety in game modes work well here, and it is nice to see all the different things this has in store. The main issue, again, is that nothing is really great. All of these game modes are a fine enough distraction, but nothing is good enough to keep anyone interested for that long. The creation is great, but everything else struggles a bit.

Screenshot for Trailmakers on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Trailmakers is right on the cusp of being something great. There are a lot of tools here, and pieces that can be used to build anything imaginable. The focus is on creativity, and this is for anyone that liked building their own LEGO original creations, rather than following the instructions. If everything about this was as good as the customization, this would be an easy recommendation for just about everyone. Unfortunately, what exactly they let you do with your toys is less exciting, and the "game" part of the game needed a bit more work. It has the feel of building a top of the line, brand new Ferrari, and then only being able to race it around the local supermarket parking lot. With a bit more work, this could've been exceptional, but for now it feels stuck in neutral.

Developer

Flashbulb Games

Publisher

Flashbulb Games

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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