Trackmania Sunrise is different.
In four words, I just summed up the entire game. After dozens of employees slaved over a game for months, the best I can come up with to describe their work is “Trackmania Sunrise is different.” Four stupid words. Actually, really only one word, since different is really the only one talking about the game. And sadly, it’s taken me hours to get this far.
Now, I have to come up with another eight hundred to explain why Trackmania Sunrise is different. Please, be patient with me. This is a very different game.
Trackmania Sunrise is a racing game unlike any other that I’ve ever experience, so maybe that’s why starting this review has been hard. Instead of racing licensed cars on traditional tracks, Trackmania Sunrise has you racing fictional cars high above a great ocean across a track that seems more like a rollercoaster than a race course (complete with loops and halfpipes). While it won’t be discussed in the same breath as Forza or Gran Turismo, Trackmania Sunrise is worth taking a look at if you’re bored with the more traditional racers on the market.
The single-player modes in Trackmania Sunrise are where I spent most of my time and it was apparent from the get-go that this was a different racing game. For starters, you don’t race against any opponents. Instead, you’re racing against the clock that ticks away seconds in the lower portion of the screen. The faster you get to the finish line, the higher you rank. It’s deceptively as simple as that. “Arcade” physics compliment the racing in this game, meaning you’re going to be doing lots of bouncing and flipping and spinning in Trackmania Sunrise.
The challenge lies in mastering the tracks. You’ll spend much of your time restarting each track, perfecting every corner and hitting each jump with the appropriate speed in order to excel. While this might lead to frustration in most games, the quirky design of Trackmania Sunrise encourages you to keep going to see what the next ramp is going to lead you to. Sometimes you’ll need to spend fifteen minutes to figure out the best way to hit a certain corner so that you can shave fifteen seconds off your time and get a medal so you can unlock the next race.
Traditionally, this isn’t the type of game I would enjoy, but I found that I had great fun in Trackmania Sunrise. The design of the game is so brilliantly simple; no one could ever have any trouble learning the mechanics of the game yet no one can master it without spending a great deal of time with it, learning all of the nuances. There are just four buttons that are utilized during the race: up, down, left, and right, yet these arrows that we normally surround with hotkeys and shortcuts manipulate the entire game all by themselves.
The single-player mode is diverse and features four different modes. The first, the previously mentioned race mode, is basic and requires that you beat several different times in order to earn medals (bronze, silver, gold). Breaking the track records unlocks new tracks to explore and master. Next, there’s the platform mode (which is very similar to the next mode, which is called “crazy mode”), which is filled with all sorts of crazy jumps. Time is not considered important in this mode and instead, the number of times you have to reset your car after launching yourself off the dozens of ramps that line these levels are. The less you reset, the better the medal you earn.
These modes were all fine and good, but I spent a lot of my time fiddling around with the puzzle mode. Puzzle mode is the best mode in the game. In this mode, checkpoints and finish lines are set on a map, and it’s your job to build the track that will lead you there. Of course, giving you unlimited pieces of track wouldn’t make this mode challenging, so you’re only granted a few pieces of track to work with. Sometimes, you’ll have to use every piece of track they give you in order to succeed and other times a simple ramp will get you to your destination. This mode is incredibly addictive because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be almost angry that you didn’t come up with the best option the first time and you’ll strive for the perfect track.
To compliment the puzzle mode there is also a fully-fledged level designer, complete with all of the tools you need to create your own brilliant tracks. The designer is very simple to manipulate, and while my first tracks were simple, they grew and grew in size and scope as my familiarity with the game grew. Since you’re given as much freedom of creation as the developers had, you’ll find tons of replay value in this mode and you can even download tracks that other users have created.
Even the graphics department manages to please. While I said that no licensed cars grace the game, the fictional cars are still very nicely crafted. The draw-distance is spectacular, but I would have liked to have seen more arrows or an on-screen compass pointing out where you were supposed to go next. There’s no damage modeling to speak of, but once the “arcadey” look and feel of the title is considered, the lack of damage modeling seems less important. It’s only in the sound department that this game strongly falters, as the music failed to impress me and the limited sound effects begged to be silenced.
Inevitably, Trackmania Sunrise is one of those games you know you’re going to find buried under a heap of unsold, shoddy Tomb Raider games in the bargain bin. While I don’t expect the game to sell a million copies, I hope that you’ll pick up the game before it reaches its final destination. Trackmania Sunrise is truly a different game, and it’s different enough to warrant a spot in your collection.
Eight out of ten