When I'd finished this review, our reviews editor Martin Korda was a bit puzzled.
"So, let me get this straight," he said. "You describe the graphics as dodgy, the car handling as slightly iffy and the title TrackMania as cack-on-a-stick - yet you're somehow happy?" I nodded. "Then why are you crying, young one?" he cooed as he ruffled my hair.
"Because it made my fingers bleed," I replied as I raised the sinister gory stumps that had formed over my wrists. "And now I can't play it anymore."
TrackMania, as football pundits the world over are fond of telling us, is a game of two halves: in one you puzzle and in the other you race. The bastard offspring of old-skool puzzle game Pipemania and any number of racers where you spend more time airborne than is healthy, your primary objective is to get to the finish line as quickly as is humanly possible.
The twist in the game, though, is that in doing so, you must first construct the course with a big bag of track materials provided by your helpful PC. You build the jumps and place the loops to ensure that you get from point A to point B (often by way of points C through to K) in the fastest possible fashion, even if this means that you're cheating like a bastard.
As noted in my opening ramble, TrackMania isn't a hugely polished game, but it's a breath of fresh air to play a game with a half-original concept. It feels (and, critics might add, looks) like the games of my youth (and so the rest of the team's middleage), when originality sold as much as generic graphical kiss-kiss-bang-bang.
The second path of straight races aren't quite as much fun, and most of your enjoyment stems from trying to outwit the game in the puzzle sections - but chasing the ghost-car that traces out your earlier runs is a compulsion that rarely fades.
Splash The Cash
The more medals you're awarded, the more cash you have to spend on buying bits of track for your own maniacal designs, which you can then spread all over the internet with joyful abandon. There's a fairly vibrant community online, most of it hailing from TrackMania's gallic homeland.
If you fancy it, you can hook yourself up online and get racing against a host of fellow TrackManiacs. This is hampered by the fact that there's no collision detection (you can magically drive through each other's cars), but it's still fun and competitive just the same.
With only three cars to race and edges so rough you might as well rub your eyes with sandpaper, the phrase 'hidden depths' has never been so apt for a game. In the past week, desperate attempts at shaving valuable seconds off my laptimes have become my sole reasons for living. This game may look a bit suspect, but it truly and honestly isn't. Try it - you might like it.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP