Marco Fiori, August 18, 2011
Remember Line Rider? Draw some virtual slopes using a flash version of MS Paint; watch a miniature man on a sled slalom down your creation; share online. It’s astonishing to think that such a simple concept did so well, spawning various fully fledged sequels on handheld gaming devices.
It’s also fairly surprising that a ‘draw and bask in your creativity’ concept can still drive game development so strongly today. Then again, user created content is all the rage at the moment — you only have to look at Little Big Planet to see how popular share-and-go gaming is in today’s world. In fact, Dream Track Nation (DTN) shares much of its DNA with creative-racing title Trackmania.
Both send twitchy cars around user created tracks while relying on you to flawlessly navigate levels. If you fail on a jump, it’s an instant-restart and a hasty try-again. If we continue down this comparative road, you can also draw similarities with Angry Birds. Each game has you working your way through increasingly difficult levels, collecting objects as you go (in Dream Track Nation’s case, stars).
Field of Dreams
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that Chilingo (publisher of Angry Birds) is behind Dream Track Nation. Developed by PowPow Games, DTN sets itself firmly in the arena of lunacy. Forget realistic racetracks and handling — this is all about sending a car hurtling through the air for maximum points.
The Art Style
Its cute cartoon style compliments its approach and helps keep things simple across the four landscape types (Texas, Alaska, New York and outlandishly, the Moon). It’s by no means a looker, but by sticking to a silly, yet minimal art style, you can focus on the insanity and less on the minor details. A chirpy soundtrack accompanies the art style to ensure all your senses are kept busy. From a visual / audio perspective, it’s a game that knows its limitations, but plays to its strengths.
Content wise, it’s bursting at the seams. Whether you choose the collect-em-up star mode or the more traditional time trial, there’s a host of levels to choose from. Each is more difficult than the last as more and more obstacles / flips / loop-da-loops are thrown at the gamer. Downloadable maps and cars mean you’re not stuck with the same motor throughout.
And, if for some reason you get bored of the PowPow created tracks, there’s a fiddly, yet competent creation engine included for custom-content. You begin with a start and finish point and it’s up to you to fill in the bits in between. The game, like TrackMania, provides an assortment of jumps, ramps and environmental details to allow you to create full-fledged levels. You can make them as easy as you like or you can create death traps that’ll have fellow gamers throwing their iPhones at the wall.
When you’re done, there’s the option to share your prized track. An in-game store ranks the latest, top and most recently updated levels for you to download. If you’re after a particular track, a helpful ID system allows for quick navigation to the desired creation. The quality on show varies from professionally designed levels to droll irritation. That said, half the fun is searching and finding those hidden gems.
Overall, Dream Track Nation is worth its negligible cost. It’s certainly not the next Angry Birds, but as iOS create-a-track racers go, it’ll keep you busy on the train.Follow @macgasm