Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bigger, Better, Baaader - Escape Goat 2

So, way back in October of 2014, I reviewed Escape Goat, which you can read here, finding it to be a short but very fun puzzle platformer with an awesome soundtrack. I also mentioned the sequel and said I might get to reviewing it at some point. Well it took longer than it probably should have, but here we are. So, how does the sequel stack up?

Escape Goat 2 has the same basic setup as the last game. You're a purple goat, who has to explore a stronghold, solving puzzles and avoiding obstacles to rescue sheep. The first thing you're likely to notice is the map system. Instead of a single hub to select which area you want to go like in the first game, there's a map that shows all of the levels you can go to. with more areas unlocking as you clear previous ones. It's better laid out than the old hub as you can readily jump to any level you have unlocked though the map, rather than skipping through levels like in the previous game, and the roughly vertical layout of the map, along with numbering each area gives a better indication of how hard any given area is with stages getting harder the further up you go.

Another major change is that while levels all still fit within a single screen, the actual size of a level is now somewhat variable, with the game's view zooming in or out to accommodate. This allows for a bit more variety in level design, as the game can close in for small, tightly packed levels, or zoom out for larger, more complicated ones, and there's a good number of both to go around.
Some levels, like this one, are a bit smaller than the others, so the game zooms things in to compensate
Much like last time, the stages are heavily mechanical, full of moving parts, switches, conveyor belts and other things you'll have to manipulate or work around. Stages are a lot more complicated this time around, as while manipulating a level's layout is still a big part of solving puzzles, there's also a little more emphasis on how things interact with each other, as puzzles might require you to move blocks to help reposition an enemy or get a barrel into place. As another example, the game;s main enemy, a reaper can throw fireballs when it sees you, if these fireballs hit a crate, it lights on fire, burning not only that crate but other crates next to it. Several levels are based around this ability, using lines of crates to create fuses for the fire to travel though.

The mouse also makes it's return in Escape goat 2. Just like the last game, you can have it walk around the levels, climbing floors and ceilings, or having it sit in place. It's role however, has been greatly expanded. the mouse now has several new power ups you can get hold of. The hat that let you swap places with it returns, but there's also some new powerups you can find, like a hammer that can turn the mouse into a solid block, or a cape that lets it jump between walls, or the floor and ceiling depending on where it's standing. Some levels even allow you to have multiple mice to work with. There's even some levels that are almost entirely reliant on the mouse. Overall the game does a great job of taking advantage of using these new abilities to make some interesting puzzles.

Fire can slowly spread through crates.
Just like the previous game, Escape goat 2 has a good difficulty curve, steadily ramping things up without too much in the way of sudden lulls or spikes in difficulty. This is helped by the games size. Compared to the roughly 50 levels of Escape Goat, Escape Goat 2 is twice the size at about 100 levels long, and they take advantage of this, letting the difficulty rise at a slow, steady pace. The game is also harder then the first, several levels had me stumped for quite awhile, none of the stages seemed impossible, save for one or two end-game levels that had me stumped badly enough to look up the solution online. There's even some secrete levels, judging by the game telling me I haven't found all the rooms, though they're very well tucked away as I've yet to actually find any on my own.

The level editor also makes a return from the previous game, along with some good news and some bad news. The good news is this time the level editor has Steam workshop support, making user made levels readily accessible and while there's not a massive level making community, there's a good number available on the game's workshop page. The bad news is that's on the Steam version and this game is not exclusive to Steam. I'll note I only have the Steam version, so I'm not sure what the situation with the level editor is outside of Steam. I did do a little Googling to try and find places to download user made levels, but couldn't find any. So note user made levels might not be readily available outside Steam. Fortunately, the level editor isn't the primary focus of the game, so it's not a major loss if non-steam copies can't readily access it or levels made with it, but it's something to keep in mind when deciding where to get the game from.
The map is a stained glass window, that slowly fills in as you complete levels.
One of the biggest changes between Escape Goat 1 and 2 is the graphics. While the first Escape goat used simple Pixel art. Escape goat 2 get's rid of the pixel aesthetic. Instead, the game uses a very detailed art style that seems almost hand drawn in places. Areas look much more distinct from each other compared to the first game, including detailed backgrounds and some nice lighting effects to top things off. It's also very readable, even when levels are zoomed in or out I can readily recognize everything I'm looking at. I also liked the stained glass motif used for the map, with parts that fill in as you free sheep and complete levels. overall This is a very nice looking game.

What Escape goat 2 got rid of the first game's pixel art, it fortunately kept the soundtrack. Escape goat 2's soundtrack picks up form where the first left off, giving more catchy, epic sounding chiptunes. The soundtrack's only a bit longer than the original games, 14 tracks instead of 9, but they're all good, especially Caper Erratus, the track that plays over the end credits. I'd highly recommend that if you don't get the game, at least give the soundtrack a listen on Bandcamp. Sound meanwhile is pretty good. There's not a lot to the game's sound, mostly you'll be hearing the sound of turning gears and moving stone, backed by the occasional fwoosh form a reapers fireball, or the sound of breaking wood, but sound quality is nice across the board and doesn't detract too much from the awesome music.
You're ultimate goal in each area to free sheep, like this one.
So, overall this game is pretty good, though one flaw with the game is that the levels don't always seem as tightly designed as they could be, namely a handful of levels felt like I didn't beat them quite as intended. There were spots where I made a weird jump I wasn't sure I was supposed to do, or I'd get passed an obstacle in a way that while it worked, didn't seem like it was what I was supposed to be doing. it's not horrible, and I could just be flat out wrong and everything I did was intended to be possible, but it is was something I noticed.

Also, there's a couple points in-game that require you to do things either very quickly or with some fairly precise timing and those were likely the games weakest points. Escape Goat works best when it plays somewhat slowly, giving you time to look the level over and think things through. So when they need you to time things or work quickly, it's kind of jarring and just doesn't sit well with me, especially when the game usually gives you some margin of error, or at least makes getting stuck in a level more a matter of doing things improperly rather than simply not being fast enough. Though as bad as these moments are, they're fortunately rare.

Overall, This is pretty much a no-brainer, almost everything Escape Goat 1 does, Escape Goat 2 does much better. If you liked the first game, defiantly get this. If you haven't tried either game yet however, you might want to try the first game and see if you like it before getting into this, as it's cheaper, and the core gameplay is pretty similar.

Escape goat 2 was developed by MagicalTimeBean and published by Double Fine Productions. It is available on Steam and GoG. It's homepage is available here. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Barbarian Diplomacy - Depths of Peril

Diablo clone. I think it says a lot about a genre of games when it's still being defined as a clone of some other game. Diablo 2 came out in 2000 and even now, 15 years later as of this writing. I still hear games similar to it referred to as Diablo clones. In a world where we have First Person Shooters instead of Doom clones and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas instead of DOTA clones, Diablo clones don't seem to have quite made a name for themselves yet. I've heard things like Hack and slash, Action RPG and even Loot-Driven RPG thrown around, but I've never seen any one term readily stick and it always comes back to "It's a Diablo clone".

With that in mind, Depths of Peril is... well I'll be tagging it as Action and RPG for this blog but yeah, it's a Diablo clone. Namely, it's a Diablo Clone that sees you as the leader of a covenant, fighting against other covenant's for control of the town of Jorvik. You do this by completing quests to help the town, gaining influence and strengthening your covenant, so you can take down the other covenants, either by making alliances with diplomacy, or as is more appropriate for a town full of barbarians, by gathering your men, storming their home base and beating the crap out of everyone inside it.
Welcome to Jorvik, I hope you brought your axe.
In Depths of peril, you have 4 classes: Warrior, Mage, Rouge, and Priest. They all work how you'd expect; The warrior hits things and can take a beating, the priest can buff and heal, etc. The classes are fairly standard, though there is an interesting twist in how the skill trees are handled. None of the skills require other skills as a prerequisites or even have any hard level requirements to unlock. Instead, skills further down the tree require more skill points to level up, you can even untrain skills individually, though it costs in game money to do this. Many skills don't even have a very high initial cost, meaning you can get what would be late game skills in other games fairly quickly if you can save up for them or have the money to untrain other skills to free up some points. There's also a bonus tree that all classes have access to. instead of skill points, the bonus tree gives various bonuses based on things like stats or level, like extra physical resist for having a high vitality. It's not a major game changer, but it's interesting and help to make things a little different.

On top of your character you also have a covenant to run. You can recruit up to 4 other characters to join you, either by finding them out in the world or by completing their recruitment quest when they show up in town. These characters act like simple versions of the classes you can pick, having the ability to equip a weapon, armor and shield and having a small handful of the skills that class has access to. The skills are random, so finding somebody with the mix of skills is a must. fortunately, you can kick people out of the covenant at any time to make room for new members. These characters will help defend your covenant while you're away, join you on raids against other covenants, or you can have one follow you around while you're adventuring and completing quests. your covenant also acts as your home in base, containing stashes for extra equipment, as well as places to put in guard monsters you can hire, relics that give you're entire covenant various skill and stats bonuses. There's even a book shelf you can fill with books you find, and not only can you read the books stored here, but each new book you turn in gives a small stat bonus.

Your covenant also has a life stone. This stone can quickly heal you over time and acts as your covenants life in a sense, when you or anyone in your covenant dies and resurrects, it takes damage, and enemies can also attack it directly if they somehow get to it. If it's ever destroyed, you lose. Fortunately, the stone slowly heals over time, so one or two random deaths aren't a major problem, but it will add up if you keep dying.
Reading the books is nice, but what's really good is the +1 VIT you get for having it on your shelf.
Of course, your not the only covenant in Jorvik. In each game, you can have as many as 5 other covenants fighting for control of the town, and they are an active part of the game, recruiting members, going out to fight monsters and complete quests. Fighting each other as well as trading and engaging in diplomacy. These other covenants are where the game departs from your typical Action RPG, as a lot of the game revolves around how you deal with them. Your ultimate goal in each game is to be the last covenant standing, or at least be allied with everyone who isn't dead yet, and you have some options on how to do that. You can spread rumors to hurt a covenant's influence over the town, set up treaties and trade routes. Or simply declare war and send your men in to go kill everyone and destroy their life stone. The game has a separate difficulty slider for how aggressive other covenants are, so you can control how much of of an impact they have on the game. That said I'd recommend leaving it on easy for the first round or two, at least until you've got a few levels under your belt and some extra members to help with defense and raids.

The other way Depths of peril makes itself different from other Action RPGs is in how it's world works. Quests in this game are not static, objectives don't simply sit around waiting for you to complete them. not only might other covenants get to them first, but quests can progress or even change when left alone. Is someone lost and need rescuing? If you don't hurry, they might die. Don't gather the materials the armorsmith needs fast enough? he might go out to do it himself and that might get him killed. If your really unlucky, a monster uprising might produce powerful named champions, who will eventually send attacks against the town itself. I actually lost a game once because an uprising I ignored ended with a gate popping up in my home base and flooding it with more monsters than I could handle. It's an interesting takes on quests and adds some urgency to things, forcing you to prioritize what needs to be done, and not just focus on what the rewards are.
While the game is mostly about slaying monsters, diplomacy is more important than you might think.
I should note that this game was originally released in 2007 and made by a small indie team, so graphically the game isn't all that great. Terrain is mostly flat plains dotted with random trees or ruins, many enemies are simple reskins of each other, and overall there's not a lot going for it visually. though to their credit they are using 3D graphics, which makes a nice change from all the 2D pixel art out there and while the graphics aren't the best, they are readily readable, enemies are easily noticeable and while gear can be hard to see, holding down either alt key will highlight things you can pick up for you, as well as things like chests you can interact with. also, what the game lacks in graphical powers it makes up for in modesty, as this game has virtually no system requirements and takes up very little disk space, which is nice if you usually worry about that kind of thing.

The game's music is also fairly minimal. It's actually fairly quiet even with the music slider cranked up, and it's mostly there to keep things from being too quiet. There's not really anything to say about it, it's just there. sound is a bit better, everything sounds like it should including plenty of little beeps, chimes and other effects to help help alert you to important events, such as the sound of someone knocking on a door when another covenant when they want to trade with you. enemies do make some noise as they move around, so there's a chance you'll hear them coming if you somehow didn't see them yet. Sound quality is decent across the board and does what it needs to, so while sound isn't exactly great, it get's the job done just fine.
It's not downright ugly, but it's not the prettiest game either.
In playing the game I didn't encounter any major problems, the game is a bit grindy, as 90% of the game is spent running around killing random things for look and XP, but that's typical for games like this. There is one problem I came across, in that managing your covenant members can be a bit annoying. There's no overall view of your covenant members, to see information about them, you'll have to go look at each one individually, this also makes comparing a member to a potential replacement somewhat difficult. Also, while the game will compare equipment for you, it only compares what your looking at to your equipment, not your covenant members, so upgrading their equipment can be a bit annoying. It doesn't utterly ruin the game, but it's something you'll have to live with.

So with all that said would I recommend this game? It honestly depends, If you don't like games like Diablo this is unlikely to change your mind. If you do like games like that however, want to see something a little different and don't mind a few rough edges? This is definitely a game to check out.

Depths of Peril was developed and published by Soldak Entertainment. It is available on Steam, GoG, Desura and Gamersgate. It's homepage, which includes a demo and direct purchase option is available here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Exploration of an infinite world - A Valley Without Wind

Here's a game with a bit of troubled history. It started life as an exploration based top down RPG with a lot of crafting and some city building features. As time when on however, it changed. Features were reworked and cut, it changed from a top down game to a side scroller, even up to and past release it was undergoing changes, so many that The developers, Arcen games eventually decided to just up and make a sequel (which I will hopefully be covering sometime in the near future EDIT: you can read the review here), then sell both games together, giving the sequel to owners of the original game for free. The whole thing was a rough, confusing ride, so what exactly are we left with?

A Valley without wind starts with an Unusual setting. The world of Environ is suffering form a major problem: Reality has shattered. Rebuilding the world as a patchwork mess of different places and times, covered in unending windstorms and ruled over by overlords. Only glyph bearers can withstand venturing out of the safety of various settlements to look for supplies, build shelters to fight off the wind, and hopefully taken down the overlord that rules the continent. It's an interesting set up that mostly works as an excuse for the gameplay, though there are additional story snippets to uncover by exploring the game, they uncover more back story and fill out the world a bit more. It's interesting, and worth going after for those interested in the setting, though you can just as easily ignore it.
You'll be exploring several different environments in game, the layouts of which are randomly generated.
The gameplay of A Valley Without Wind is odd. Mostly it's a open world platformer, you can explore massive randomly generated worlds looking for weapons or other items you can use in your quest to beat the current continent's overlord. Which unlocks a new continent for you to tackle, the game is actually endless, and will generate an unlimited number of continents for you to explore and liberate, constantly getting harder as you go.

With that in mind, most of the gameplay for each continent is based around preparing to handle the overlord. you'll explore the world for supplies, attacking lieutenants to weaken the overlord, putting up wind shelters tot keep the wind storms at bay, or just searching the land for better spells and enchantments to fight with. Spells are your main weapon in the game, there's a lot of them though many are very samey, mostly they're simple projectiles or melee attacks that do different elemental damage, enchantments meanwhile act like equipment, doing things like increasing projectile speed, increasing damage with certain spells, or even more interesting things like double jumps or the ability to safety enter the acidic water that covers the world.

you get a lot of your rewards in the game through missions. They're also randomly generated and there's quite a few different ones you can find scattered across the world. Such as clearing a tower of bosses, protecting supply crates from falling meteors or even dodging obstacles as you fall down a tall building or cave. They do a good job of breaking up the random exploration and finding and completing them makes a good short term goal in game.
Missions  can have all sorts of objectives, such as falling to the bottom of a tall building.
There's also your settlement, you can survivors to live in your settlement, as well as buildings that give them or yourself some sort of bonus, such as extra movement speed or damage resistance. You can also send survivors out on dispatch missions though admittedly, this is perhaps the weakest part of the game. Settlement management is mostly about making sure there's enough farms to feed everybody, then dumping mood and skill improving items on people before sending them out on missions and hoping they succeed or at least not die. Fortunately, you can change the difficulty for various parts of the game individually, so if you don't like something like the settlement management, you can always drop it to it's easiest setting and not need to worry about it much.

Finally, there's how the game handles death and progress. The game has a sorta perma-death to it. you pick a character with semi-randomized stats and traits based on what time period they're from, and when they die, they're gone for good. But you get to keep your spells, enchantments, and inventory and simply continue the game with a new character. Progress meanwhile, is based mostly on a system of unlocks: doing things unlocks more things, both good ad bad. Kill a lot of enemies? new enemies of that basic type show up. Missions gain new features as you complete them. Killing all enemies in a section of land might add a new crafting ingredient and so on. There's a lot to unlock as well, more than enough that it should take a few continents at least to have unlocked and seen everything.
wind shelters are an important part of the game as you need them to push back the windstorms that cover the land.
Graphically... I'm not going to mince words and just say it's horrible. Terrain is basic, characters are poorly done CG. background elements stick out from the rest of the world like sore thumbs. When you're inside buildings, the walls and floors are pure black, there's no texture or detail to them. The whole thing just doesn't really want to come together. This is an ugly game, even the developers seem to think this, given how they made a point of completely redoing them for the sequel. To some people there might be a sort of charm to it, but this is honestly not a game you get for it's amazing graphics.

What it lacks in good graphics, A Valley without Wind more than makes up for with it's soundtrack. The game has a massive soundtrack with dozens of songs, ranging from chiptunes, to piano pieces, even a bit of synth music for good measure. The music is nice and varied and it'll take awhile for the songs in it to start wearing thin, which is great given the size of this game. Unfortunately, while there is a soundtrack available on Bandcamp, which I linked below. It's not the full soundtrack. In fact it's only a volume 1 but I never saw any further volumes put out which is sad as the game's soundtrack is easily one of it's stronger points.
Overworlds like this help tie the game's many locations together.
Outside of the graphics, the game has two other notable flaws, the first is that the controls are somewhat awkward, the game works best with a mouse and keyboard, but between all the hot bars and using various spells and abilities it's a lot to manage. You can adjust the controls and it helps to a point, but it's hard to play the game without having to occasionally rearrange hotbars, to say nothing of thumbing through the games various menus. The bigger problem is the games random nature. The world is absolutely massive and doesn't do much to guide you, which is nice when you're just wandering around, but when you need something specific, like a certain building or adventurer with a certain skill, trying to find it in that near infinite landscape can be a major pain. There is a store in the settlement which lets you buy this stuff with an in-game currency call consciousness shards, which you can find scattered around the world or off defeated enemies. It's meant to help alleviate this problem, and it does to a point. Though the prices for the bigger things like the all important wind shelters are quite expensive.

Overall I'd recommend this game, but with a small warning: There's a lot of weirdness and rough edges to this game. If you can work with that and look past all those rough spots I've mentioned in this review, there's a massive game you can sink dozens of hours into, and you get the sequel as a bonus. Otherwise? It's probably best to skip this unless you wanted the sequel, since the two games are sold in a two game bundle and can't be brought separately.

A Valley Without Wind developed and published by Arcen Games, LLC. It is available on Steam and Desura. It's homepage, which includes a direct purchasing option and demo is available here. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A car insurer's worst nightmare - Trackmania United

I should probably start this review with a little history. Back in 1990, a company called Distinctive Software released a game called Stunts, or 4D Sports Driving . It was a very unique racing game, that saw you trying to set the best lap times in crazy, stunt filled tracks. The game was likely best known for it's easy to use track editor, that allowed people to readily make and share their own tracks.

Fast forward to 2003. Nadeo releases a game called Trackmania, a spiritual successor to Stunts, it has the same basic premis: drive on crazy, stunt filled tracks and try to set the best time, and use the built in track editor to make your own tracks to share with others. Nadeo would go on to make a whole series out of this Releasing the games Trackmania Sunrise and even a free title in the form of Trackmania Nations. Eventually these three games were combined to create Trackmania United, which then got a free expansion turning it into Trackmania United Forever. It then got another free expansion, making the game Trackmania United Forever Star Edition which is the version I'm reviewing. Though for simplicities sake I'll simply be calling it Trackmania United.

Trackmania United is an arcade racing game with a bit of a weird twist. You don't race against other drivers, at least not directly. You won't be jockeying with other cars as there are no other cars, just ghost recordings of other racers, even in multiplayer, cars will harmlessly pass right through each other. Instead your opponent is the track itself. Each track in Trackmania is an obstacle course, filled with massive jumps, corkscrews, loops and other things that have no place on a proper race course. These tracks are backed up by a solid driving model. Cars are responsive and fun to drive, and thanks to the game's arcade roots, can even brake in mid-air. this is actually important as controlling your speed is a big part of the game, so being able to slow down in mid air when you might otherwise overshoot a jump is extremely useful. When you do make a mistake, the game also has a checkpoint system, with the ability to respawn at the last checkpoint you passed at any time, so you don't have to restart a track completely if you crash or otherwise get stuck. you can respawn as many times as you need, though the clock does keep ticking while you do this, so there's still a penalty to using it.
Loops in the track, like this one here are a common sight in game.
The game is broken up into several different environments. Ranging from deserts to coastal villages to even a racing stadium. Each environment has it's own look and feel to it, having their own unique obstacles, for example, the Snow environment has patches of ice, and the stadium has dirt track segments. Each environment also has a specific vehicle for you to drive ranging from the island's Formula One car, to the snow environment's pickup truck and each car handles very differently from the rest. Unfortunately each environment only has one car and you can't mix these things. The island car can only be used on island tracks, you cant use it on a cost track. So you don't actually have any choice in what car you're going to drive on any given track.

While you don't get a say in cars, you do have a few racing modes to pick from outside of the normal racing, there's also platform, puzzle and stunt modes. platform is a lot like normal racing, except instead of time, your success is measured in attempts. Tracks are raised above ground, and your goal is to complete them while falling off, crashing, or otherwise getting stuck as few times as possible, the fewer times you need to respawn at a checkpoint, the better. Puzzle meanwhile, makes good use of the game's track editor. In puzzle mode, you're given a partially built track, and some parts you can use to finish it, hopefully in such a way as to set a good time. these modes are fun and while clearly not the main focus of the game, make for a nice bonus on top of the usual time trials.
Each environment has their own unique features, such as Stadium's dirt track sections shown here.
Then there's stunt mode which unfortunately isn't very good. Stunt mode has you race down a track, performing stunts to try and score as many points as possible before crossing the finish line there's a time limit that steadily deducts points from your total once it reaches 0. The main problem is while you can control your speed mid-air, that's all you can control. this isn't like an ATV or motorcycle game where there's commands for stunts you can actually input. All you can do is throw yourself off a ramp, hoping that you'll both land on your wheels and your randomly spiraling through the air will somehow be worth a lot of points. It just feels like everything is up to chance and there's no way to really influence the outcome.

Between all of these modes and environments, the game has maybe about 200 tracks. it's a very large number and the game would be highly replayable if that was it, but the game went as far as to include a track editor. The track editor is extremely easy to use. Each environment in game is broken up into several building block like segments, which you piece together on a grid to make your track. Each environment has it's own unique segments, but unfortunately you can't mix them together, so you can't use something like the bay environment's bridges on a desert track. Still, thanks to being so easy to use. Thousands of tracks have been made by the games players, which you can download from in game, or off websites like TMX. The game is even backwards compatible with tracks from the previous games in the series, making for even more playable tracks on top of the thousands made for this game alone.
Big jumps like this are common in game, though you have to be careful not to overshoot the landing.
Graphically, the game is overall decent, each environment in game has it's own distinct look and everything's pretty to look at. Given that the game is actually three games combined, it does suffer a little in that some of the environments from the older games, namely, the rally, snow and desert environments from the original Trackmania, can seem a little primitive compared to the rest of the game due to their age but there's nothing outright horrendous graphically in game. To a lesser extent, while the individual assets for each environment look nice, the game's building-block style of making tracks means there's only so many ways to put these pieces together, meaning all the tracks in any given environment will start to look a bit same-y after you've been playing while.

Trackmania has a workable soundtrack, the music is catchy, energetic and feels right at home in a racing game. Unfortunately, there's only one song per environment. You're going to be hearing the same music a lot, especially if you spend a lot of time racing in the same environment. Sound meanwhile, is perfectly fine. Engines roar like they should, tires squeal and when you mess up a landing, you're met with the sounds of crunching metal and shattering glass. There is a slight problem in that there's no environmental sounds. meaning There's no roaring crowds or other sort of background noise but it's nothing readily noticeable when you're busy driving.
With a little effort, you can include some nice scenery in the tracks you create.
For the most part the game does what it set out to do well enough and there's no major problems. Unlocking tracks can be difficult, but it's not a major issue when there's so many user made ones to play, and some parts of the game can feel a bit primitive. In particular, the first games physics can be a bit funny: Careful with that desert car, it tips over easily, but nothing that utterly wrecks the game. The exception to this is the coppers system. Coppers are a currency you can earn primarily by setting an official time on the game's built in tracks. You're also given a handful of them each day. You need coppers to try and set official times on tracks, or to download new tracks from the game's servers. The problem is earning coppers quickly is difficult and the coppers themselves only seem to exist to get between you and the game's content for no readily explainable reason, about the only good thing I can say is they at least don't charge real money for them.

Overall? Trackmania is great at what it does. It's a fun, unique racing game that's highly replayable thanks to an active userbase. and while things like the coppers system, or that everyone in multiplayer only plays the stadium environment can be a bit of a pain, the game is still highly worth playing.

Trackmania United was developed by Nadeo and published by Ubisoft. It is available on Steam and Gamersgate. It's homepage, which includes a demo is available here.