A couple of months ago I had the (mis)fortune to review Scalextric. It was one of the worst games I have ever played and has the record for the lowest score I have ever given out. In fact, it has the joint lowest review score for any game on this site (Ghostbusters being the other). Well, with Scalextric not being as big a brand in the US as over here in the UK, the game has been rebranded as TRAX – Build it, Race it for its North American release. The developer has also fixed some of the issues with the original game. So, will these improvements help to raise the score above 1.5/10?
TRAX – Build it, Race it is essentially a slot car racing simulator. You are in control of a car on a slot car track. Speaking of controls, there is only one. You control the car with the right trigger, and that’s it! This controls the speed of your car. You don’t need to steer as the car will automatically go around the track because it’s in a slot. You can’t brake though, so you need to come off the power early enough that the car slows down of its own accord before the corner. Fail to slow down enough and your car will pop out of its slot and you’ll spin off the track. You’ll get placed back on the track, but you’ll lose some time and be further back on the circuit.
Speaking of tracks, there are 12 ready to race. They’re all based on current or former F1 tracks. These aren’t named accurately; they are just referred to by the country that they are in. For instance, the Silverstone circuit is not called Silverstone but ‘United Kingdom.’ This is presumably to avoid any licensing issues/payments. Another thing to note is that although these tracks resemble their real-world counterparts pretty well, you drive the wrong way around a few of them. This can be a bit distracting at first if you know the circuits well.
Of course, with this being a game called TRAX – Build it, Race it, you can also create your own tracks. There are twelve different types of track pieces you can use, four different length straights, three different length left corners and the same again for the right, and a tight corner in each direction. It’s possible to build some interesting tracks, but it does have its limitations. For a start, you are confined to creating in a set area. You don’t know the area constraints, though, until you try to lay a piece that would exceed them. It’s also not possible to create a bridge or crossroads like the real-world toy has. Unfortunately, there’s also no option to upload your creations or download anyone else’s.
Visually, this game is passable. All the car models (there’s a grand total of four) are modelled in a generic but inoffensive way. The track pieces look like the real thing. The wood effect on the floor looks OK, I guess. There’s a distinct lack of furniture or anything in the room you’re playing in. This is something that a game like Micro Machines does really well. It’s a little thing that helps to raise the overall presentation of a title. And something that the developers of TRAX – Build it, Race it seem oblivious too.
Another thing they seem inept at is giving you an appropriate camera angle to race. The default view is so close up that you can’t see any of the corners coming up. I found the best view to be one of the furthest away. Even this one, though, had weird camera moves to follow the action.
So far, so Scalextric. Fortunately, the developer has gone back to the game and fixed a couple of things before releasing it for the North American market. The most notable thing is that the game doesn’t crash every time that you win. Whether this is because they have removed the leaderboards, I don’t know, but it is an improvement. A small change, yet a welcome one, is that there is now a lap counter on-screen. This is particularly useful if you’re feeling masochistic and want to do a 100-lap race. The developer has also appeared to have found a dictionary and changed the second place marker from 2st to 2nd. Every little enhancement helps!
Unfortunately, these minor improvements are akin to polishing a turd. The gameplay is still thinner than a sheet of paper. The sound is like being pestered by a couple of wasps. The visuals are blander than plain lettuce. You still can’t pause the race. The biggest problem that the game has is that it’s a representation of something that you can easily do at home yourself. If this was a proper racing game that would be different. There are only 20 people in the world who get to race an F1 car around those circuits. However, anyone can buy a Scalextric set and race at home. The only people who should buy this game are Achievement hunters who can pick up 1000 gamerscore in around 30 minutes. If you’re not bothered by your Gamerscore and aren’t masochistic we strongly advise that you give this game a miss.