Written by: Rik

Date posted: September 5, 2009


I think you’ll find that those are some ill skills.

Futuristic racing games are largely interchangeable, with the genre seemingly encouraging a lack of effort or original thought beyond the usual mix of floaty hover-vehicles, coloured lighting effects, generic techno music and, if you’re lucky, a hastily constructed sci-fi backstory for use on the back of the box or the first page of the manual in a half-hearted attempt to give the whole thing some context. The PlayStation, and – more specifically – Wipeout have a lot to answer for.

Still, Wipeout was at least quite good (although not particularly on PC – see We have explosive, above), standing out as pretty much the only futuristic racer worth remembering. With the possible exception of F-Zero, it’s difficult to imagine anyone looking back on any others with any particular fondness, unless of course a game happens to be so spectacularly awful that memories of it become permanently imprinted on the mind of anyone to have played it – I’m looking at you, MegaRace.

Trickstyle, then, is one of the largely-forgotten ones, and on first inspection you can see why. The name’s crap, it features hoverboards like those from Back to the Future II and the stunning naffness of the box art is complemented nicely by the accompanying hyperbole (“Got the skills to get ill? Speed is cool but sick tricks rule!”). Memories are hazy things, but I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t even considered cool in 1999. Then again, if you’re worried about being cool it’s probably worth considering taking up another hobby and leaving the rest of us to sit in darkened rooms pretending to be a fake hoverboard racer from a future where everybody dresses like a twat.

Grabbing some air. That makes me sick. (You’re not pulling off the youth speak here – FFG reader)

The format, as ever, is fairly simple – choose a racer from a handful of oddly shaped and attired men and women of different nationalities, learn the basics of the game in a practice area, then embark on a series of races that get progressively harder. The races themselves take place in futuristic city environments, which means that in addition to the usual “turn when you see a corner” fare, there are also obstacles to be avoided, alternative routes to access, and plenty of scope for falling off and making an arse of yourself, just like if you actually tried to skateboard in real life.

If you’re able to ignore the general ridiculousness of the whole enterprise – which is considerable – there’s actually a pretty playable game here. Developers Criterion went on to produce the highly-rated Burnout series on consoles, which seems to indicate they generally know what they’re doing, and Trickstyle is certainly well put together. Although you never have the impression you’re free to cruise around the futuristic city any which way you please, there are opportunities to take shortcuts on each and every track, all of which are well-designed, and occurrences of the old racing game bugbears of getting stuck on the scenery or hitting an invisible wall placed around the track are extremely rare.

The gameplay is characterised by fairly liberal use of ‘catch-up’ logic, which is most obvious when it’s in your favour as you note your opponents up ahead slowing to a near standstill during the latter stages of the race if you happen to be lagging behind. Equally, you don’t want to be falling off near the finish line yourself unless you want victory to be snatched away (and it does have to be victory, by the way – even second place prompts the sinister futuristic voice-over man to dub you a “loser”). Perhaps as an acknowledgement to a guaranteed tight finish, there are a couple of special moves at your disposal to eke out a little bit of extra speed or knock your opponents off their boards, the judicious use of which can often be the difference between winning and losing.

Some shortcuts can only be accessed by lying down. Fact.

While artificially making the races close can be a source of irritation in arcade-style racing games, if it’s done right then it actually serves the purpose for which it was intended. In Trickstyle‘s case it helps that each race is pretty much done and dusted within 90 seconds, which means that win or lose, having a go at the next track or another crack at the previous one is a fairly undemanding commitment that you usually find yourself happy to undertake. I couldn’t help but compare Trickstyle‘s approach to that of another, more recent racer I’ve been playing which asks you to tolerate some fairly blatant cheating AI that mugs you at the last corner of a race that’s lasted 4-5 minutes before demanding you have another crack at it – the exact opposite of my natural reaction, which is to turn it off and do something else instead.

Variety is provided by a number of stunt-related challenges, where your ability to pull off some, er, “sick tricks” is put to the test. These bits don’t seem to have quite the same amount of thought put into them as the races, and although there are quite a few combinations at your disposal, they aren’t all that hard to pull off, with the main challenge being whether you can mash the buttons quickly enough to get enough points within the set time limit. There are also a number of other challenges against your Trickstyle instructor, most of which seem to involve either flying through rings or grabbing orbs, or both, and they’re about as interesting as they sound.

He offers a conciliatory “bad luck”, but his body language tells a different story. He’s pissed off.

Aesthetically, things seem to have aged pretty well, with the game boasting some chunky but colourful graphics that are still fairly easy on the eye. Music and sound are both pretty much what you’d expect – although I swear that the mindless techno occasionally echoes bits from the Beverly Hills Cop theme and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise when you least expect it (perhaps this is just my imagination).

Overall, then, Trickstyle may not have gone down in gaming history as one of the greats, and a solid weekend’s play should see you finish it, but then you’re best off saving your weekends for more demanding challenges when your ability to think hasn’t been hampered by another spirit-crushing day at work. This is the kind of mindlessly diverting fun that’s been designed to be enjoyed in short bursts, to while away the odd half an hour while your dinner’s in the oven, which is certainly no bad thing.