Trackmania Turbo establishes its arcade credentials from its very outset by dropping you from a helicopter onto a vertical ramp to start the first race. That initial dizzying drop sets the tone for this super-high-speed racer, which features some of the craziest tracks I've ever driven on.
This is no Forza or Gran Turismo. Far from it. Trackmania Turbo takes the opposite route and goes for a larger-than-life racing experience filled with insane jumps, huge ramps, loop-the-loops, and roads that twist and turn like a rollercoaster ride. The cars you drive are off-road buggies and racers that are overpowered for most of the tracks, oftentimes feeling barely under control as you blast your way down the serpentine courses, luridly drifting around corners and hitting insane speeds as you thunder across turbo boosters set on the road. This is pure arcade racing, and it's great.
The single-player campaign mode is where the meat of the game is found, and it features 200 tracks to challenge your driving prowess. Rather than attempting to beat other drivers on these mostly point-to-point courses, you instead race against a ghost car that represents either gold, silver, or bronze medal times, depending on which one you choose. Most courses are very short indeed, taking less than a minute to complete, and the objective is to simply post the quickest time possible.
While this mightn't sound particularly exciting, it's actually incredibly addictive. Racing against the ghost car is hugely fun, and once you've posted a time on a track, that run becomes an additional ghost car, so you end up racing against the computer and your own personal best time. What makes the game particularly moreish is that because races are so short, and the times you have to beat are particularly challenging – especially if you want to go for gold – you end up replaying them incessantly, trying to shave a few tenths of seconds off your time.
This continual replayability is helped by the fact that you can instantly restart a race by simply pressing the reset button, so the moment you make a mistake, you can immediately start over. Failed to take a turn perfectly? Hit reset! Mistimed a jump and dinged a wall by mistake? Hit reset! Didn't land on all four wheels and lost some traction to set you up for a high speed run along the final straight? Hit reset! This rapid-succession racing gives the game an incredible one-more-go appeal, and I found that once I started playing a track, I'd keep playing it until I at least got a silver – and time would fly under those circumstances. I repeatedly got so engrossed in the game trying to beat a time, that half an hour would pass and I didn't even notice it!
The cars handle with a great deal of finesse, and the gameplay is very well tuned to be easy to pick up and play. There are no gears or handbrake – just stop and go buttons. However, although the game is straightforward to play, mastering it is particularly challenging. While many of the courses are short, they're quite fiendishly designed to be a true test of your driving skills. There are different driving surfaces to challenge you, crazy elevation changes, tiny gaps to blast through at high speeds, walls to drift around, and a myriad of hazards to catch you out. As a consequence, target times are difficult to beat, and sometimes when you're in the middle of a race and see the ghost car disappear into the distance, you wonder how in the hell you're supposed to beat it. It's here where Trackmania Turbo almost feels like a puzzle game as you figure out exactly how to maintain speed through corners, take jumps perfectly to maintain your momentum, and ride over bumps without unsettling your car to score a winning time. Indeed, some tracks can be almost frustrating, requiring you to execute them perfectly to record a gold medal win. But this is what the game is all about: learning how to execute a race to perfection, and repeatedly playing it until you do so.
As well as a very beefy single-player campaign, Trackmania Turbo features a slew of local multiplayer modes. There's a basic split-screen mode that supports up to four players simultaneously, an arcade mode that enables up to ten players to locally challenge one another sequentially on a leaderboard, and hot seat, in which players attempt to score the best time, and then are challenged by the rest of the group. Some modes also include a double driver option in which two players control the car. I didn't get the chance to test this out, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Finally, there are a few modes that you can unlock over time, which include mono screen (in which players attempt to race on the same screen), stunt mode (where you're awarded a speed boost if you perform tricks while in mid-air), and a bonus Mario Kart-style race in which players can pick up helpful bonuses as they race against one another.
On top of all that, there's also an online racing mode that I particularly enjoyed. Here, you join a race with up to 100 other players, and all participants play simultaneously as ghosts, attempting to score the best time possible within the allotted five minute racing time span. It's pretty chaotic, but very entertaining, with players all competing together to come out on top of the leaderboard, which constantly updates as players improve on their times. After the five minute timer expires, players are all ranked, and everyone moves onto the next track.
And if that's not enough, Trackmania Turbo also features a trackbuilder that enables you to create, save, and share your own courses, and set challenges for other players to beat. The editor is intuitive to use: I was able to crank out a few basic courses very easily, and had fun testing them out. You can even generate random tracks if you don't want the bother of designing your own, and race those instead.
All these modes and features combine to create a comprehensive arcade racing game that has plenty of lasting appeal. What I did discover while playing the game is that Trackmania Turbo is best enjoyed in shorter gaming bursts. I found that when I sat down and played it for several hours at a time, I'd eventually get tired of the action because it can be rather intense and somewhat repetitive. However, for shorter sessions, the game is ridiculously addictive and entertaining, and I can see myself going back to it time and time again whenever I fancy a swift dose of quality time attack arcade racing.
Along with a challenging 200-track single-player campaign to tackle, there's a wealth of multiplayer modes, a trackbuilder, and an online racing option to keep you busy.
Trackmania Turbo looks great. Its bright and colorful arcade-style graphics are crisp and highly detailed.
Trackmania Turbo's arcade action is slick, fast and thoroughly enjoyable. It offers a ton of content to keep you busy, and challenging the leaderboards is a highly addictive experience. The action can become somewhat repetitive during extended play sessions, but in short bursts, this game is a huge amount of fun.