Priding itself as a Trackmania-style arcade racer, Track and Burn seeks to carve out a slot in the “create-a-racer” sub-genre. The genre isn’t exactly overrepresented these days, though there have been some major new entries as of late, like the recently-released Hot Wheels Unleashed and the return-to-form that is 2020’s Trackmania.
Making a DIY racer is no easy feat. The building mechanics have to strike a good balance of being both fluid and intuitive, but also not overly complex nor overly simplified. It’s a delicate dance, and that’s perhaps why it hasn’t become a more standardized sub-genre. Yet, the little indie that is Track and Burn is jumping right into the deep end, making its DIY features the backbone of the entire experience. Thankfully, the potential shown off so far bodes well for the game’s future.
Building bits and bobs
Considering that this is still in Early Access, I decided to look at where I want to see the game go rather than criticizing it for what’s not currently present. That said, while its current content is a bit on the lighter side, it’s easy to see what direction that the Tayasui team is taking the game. For starters the driving mechanics, the most important feature, feel very tight so far.
Drifting and cornering feel fluid and easy to pull off, and there’s a good sense of speed, friction and weight. Really, it seems to mimic a similar style to that of another indie racer gem, Horizon Chase Turbo. Keep in mind that Horizon Chase is also an homage to racing titles of old like OutRun. That’s a lot of interesting DNA running through Track and Burn‘s core, and the mixture is ace.
That retro inspiration is also very much a part of Track and Burn’s artstyle. It sports a clean, colorful, low-poly look that again puts it in set with Horizon Chase Turbo, which itself borrowed the theme from early 3D racers like Virtua Racing. Seeing it in a modern format is always nice, and definitely helps keep the game accessible to a wider variety of players thanks to extremely modest system requirements. You’re not going to need an RTX 3080 for this, which comes in handy for giving as many budding engineers as possible a chance to test their track building skills.
Laying the foundation
In its current state, the track editor of Track and Burn is, in a word, basic. There’s only a few road tiles to choose from, but they do manage to get the job done. All one has to do is press the tile you want and it’ll be placed for you. Though this title does callout Trackmania for being its main inspiration for the track editing mechanics, it’s currently nowhere near the level of Trackmania dev Nadeo’s efforts. Trackmania is almost in a class of its own thanks to its powerful editor allowing creators to build and sculpt some very complex designs. Track and Burn feels more like “baby’s first playset” in this regard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Though I had a real affinity for Trackmania back in the day, I was never one to invest hours into the editor. On the contrary, I enjoyed the great creations of other members of the community. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find Track and Burn’s editor, while light on tools, to be so straightforward. I have a feeling that if it continues in this vein as the game expands, that’s only going to fuel the community’s drive to keep creating.
That said, it does take some getting used to how it handles level generation. As stated before, you’re basically only responsible for creating the layout of the track. Everything else is handled by the game itself. This even includes track hazards like traffic and obstacles, as well as checkpoints and other elements. There’s also currently only one environment, which is the cityscape; though the overall look of the city can procedurally shift from being tropical to more urban.
Really, procedural is how all of the aforementioned elements are handled; once the layout of the track is completed, the game decides where everything else goes and what it’s supposed to look like. I hope that we get some more control over elements like that in the future, as the most you can do now is adjust the density of environmental objects.
My one real complaint about Track and Burn’s editor is the fact that although I was able to create and test out my tracks, I have yet to be able to share them. I kept getting an error message, which is odd considering I have been playing creations from the small group of other players that are uploading as part of the game’s private beta. But, again, this is an Early Access release, and currently a closed one at that. So, I expect issues like this to be ironed out.
Track and Burn may not necessarily become a phenomenon in the way that Trackmania did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does manage to carve out its own active little community once it enters the public space. Especially considering that it will a free-to-play release; I’m simply curious to see if there will be any egregious microtransaction paywalls to deal with. But, if things are kept as seamless and simple as they are now, Track and Burn may very well serve as some folks’ fun and lighthearted entry point into the track-building sub-genre of racers.