ATV Blazin' Trails PSP Review

The ATV racer is a new genre, seemingly spawned one day and then overcrowded the next. Sony's own ATV series made a name because of its online play on the Playstation 2, and the developers were wise to incorporate that into the PSP version. Unfortunately, that's one of the few reasons to bother with Blazin' Trails, which has little to offer outside of that, and there's sure to be a flood of these games soon anyway.

All the basics are covered, including minor rider customization, upgrades for your vehicle, new ATVs, mini-games, and a variety of races. Courses are unlocked as you make your way through the challenge mode, and money is earned for each race depending on performance and tricks performed. Local ad hoc multi-player is available too in case you don't have the necessary pieces to play online.

There's not much to the actual racing that makes it special or different. You're definitely racing an ATV, but it could be a motorcycle or dune buggy and you would never know the difference. Controls are fine, cornering needs to be mastered (and you need to be paying attention at all times), and power sliding is fun. Physics are loose and not necessarily realistic, they simply lean towards the more fun side of things. The trick system is fairly implemented; it just doesn't do very much in many of the game modes. There's no actual racing bonus for doing them.

Pre-loading your jump was something that was controlled by the second analog stick on the PS2. For the PSP, you simply hold back on the single analog stick. That sounds fine, but if you're holding the accelerator, you'll be performing a wheelie. In other words, you need to actually loose speed to get ready for a jump. That doesn't make any sense, and while there's not many control options left, a different button should have been assigned to perform the wheelie.

The AI is the most ridiculous problem the game has, varying each race. Some races, wiping out on the first lap is enough to cost you the race. The next time, you can crash 10 times and they'll never even come close to catching up. It seems to be entirely random as to how they're going to react. There are also occasional glitches, including spots on the track that you will hit and crash against, even though there's nothing there to impede your progress. Putting the PSP in sleep mode during a race can cause multiple graphical glitches as polygons are sent warping all over the screen.

The unlockable mini-games are more entertaining than the actual racing, and that's an immediate sign things aren't going well. Other bonuses include music videos that you need to purchase with in-game credits to fully complete the title, artificially extending the game well beyond where it should end, all for useless junk. That's fine if you enjoy the bands or the music. If you don't and feel the need to get everything, you don't have a choice.

There's not much to look at, as it's not easy to render sand and dirt in an attractive way. There are some minor particle effects as it's kicked up behind the realistically rendered ATVs, it's just not pushing the hardware at all, nor does it manage a frame rate anywhere near the other racing games on the console. If you crash, it seems the physics engine that send your rider across the track in a painful manner drains the processor of all it has available, putting the frame rate in single digits. The courses themselves are fine, and try to make up for it by overloading the backgrounds with objects. It's never very effective.

The sound of four ATVs running simultaneously in Blazin' Trails is sort of like a swarm of murderous bees flying next to your ear. In other words, it's annoying. It makes sure you can turn down the sound effects, or turn up the music, a mix of punk and metal. There are no taunts from the riders and the only voice work is the scream of agony as you hit a tree going 50.

There are so many other choices in this genre, stay at home and play one of them. Blazin' Trails brings nothing new or innovative, other than portability. The AI problems make it miserable to play alone and the control problems make it miserable to play online. There's nothing here to get excited about, and this derivative racer is best off forgotten.

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