Review: BlazeRush: Star Track
Six years ago indie developer Targem Games released BlazeRush for Oculus Rift, a top-down racer that offered arcade action whilst being comfortable to play. BlazeRush’s history actually extends far earlier to the Rift DK2 and that presence continues into 2022 with the launch of BlazeRush: Star Track for the Meta Quest platform. But as developers strive to make virtual reality (VR) titles even more immersive, can a top-down racer like BlazeRush still hold its ground?
Not much has changed over the course of the last few years, BlazeRush: Star Track could almost be called an optimised update for Meta Quest 2 rather than a brand new experience. Looking down over the miniature cars instantly feels familiar and the control scheme remains as simple and easy to grasp as ever. The stick points you in the direction you want to go, another button shoots whatever collected weapon you’ve acquired and then there’s a nitro for some extra oompf.
That’s essentially it for controls but what I do love about BlazeRush: Star Track before getting into racing is the accessibility of the control scheme. All of it can be mixed between one or two controllers, so you can play the entire videogame just with your left hand, for example. Don’t like using the face buttons for shooting and boosting, switch to the grip and trigger buttons. I actually settled on a fairly standard setup, controlling the vehicle with the left stick and mashing the buttons on the right.
As for the racing, it’s your fairly standard toy car racer, you look down on the track and drive a selection of bouncy racers to the finish line; some bouncier than others. Brave any of the flying cars and you’ll benefit from decent acceleration and handling but boy do they flip and ping about should a competitor get a shot in. The heavy, caterpillar tracked vehicles aren’t so easily shoved but their acceleration is poor.
Then you’ve got the on track perks to contend with. As mentioned a nitrous boost is available although you can just as easily launch yourself off the side. When it comes to the weaponry you can only pick one gun up at a time and these will depend on whatever race you’ve selected. The always fun mini gun peppers the opposition whilst the mine thrower fires forward, creating a hazard for you and others alike. Once the Taser and laser are available that’s when carnage really begins as the taser can momentarily disable multiple vehicles. Similarly, the laser cuts through and ignites any unfortunate opponents directly in front.
As you can probably imagine this makes for the type of racing that wouldn’t be out of place in Wacky Races. Trying to stay in front by keeping a racing line is absolute folly, you may as well drive with your eyes closed. It’s all about being devious with the tools available, saving that laser-guided missile for your mate who’s about to take the corner up ahead. Yes, there’s a single-player campaign with 30-odd missions to gain multiple trophies on but it’s the local (up to four players) and online (up to eight) where the action is at its most heated and entertaining – especially in the BlazeBowl.
It can be sheer madness trying to get around three laps and there’s none of that rubber banding to help those at the back. You all have access to the same limited arsenal, if you can pick it up that is. Some of the best tracks are the chase ones, where some giant ship or mechanical behemoth is just behind the group, snapping at your ankles ready to take everyone out of the race until only one remains. These had to be some of the most taught and exciting BlazeRush: Star Track had to offer.
However, I’m not entirely sold on all aspects of BlazeRush: Star Track due to a couple of things. Firstly, the game really needs some alternate cameras to select between or at least a bit of flexibility to alter the viewing angle. You have the ability to look everywhere yet there are certain track angles where a different viewpoint would’ve been preferable. Not in-car, just a wider field of view for example.
The other gripe is track variation. They’re just not outlandish enough, where are the big jumps, death-defying shortcuts, silly pyrotechnics and environmental hazards? It feels like Targem Games is playing safe with the design rather than truly experimenting with the gameplay. A shame in all honesty after so many years of VR support.
BlazeRush: Star Track isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s just had a sci-fi makeover with spaceships and lasers. Which works fine as a racer that you can jump in and out of when mates are available. It looks good, the controls are quick to pick up and it’s as comfortable a racing game as you could want. What BlazeRush: Star Track lacks is that new sparkle, the gameplay needs to evolve into a fresh experience that remains fun whilst adding an extra injection of VR mayhem.