Racing games are often judged by their ability to provide more realistic driving experiences, to throw increasingly massive collections of cars at the player or to offer infinite replayability online. Judged normally, Art Style: light trax would be a disappointment.
In this Skip-developed WiiWare game—a remake of sorts of "bit Generations" title Dotstream, released only in Japan for the Game Boy Advance—you control a line, racing against a rainbow of other lines in first-place pursuit of the finish line. Every turn and adjustment matters here. Playing it straight is playing light trax right, but you'll have to steer and wiggle your white line to avoid obstacles, avoid the paths of other colored lines and snag power ups scattered among the race tracks.
Art Style: light trax is a visually minimal, single-player racing game with a bad tutorial and what appears to be simplistic line-steering gameplay. Yeah. It's great.
A New Dimension: Unlike its Game Boy Advance ancestor, Dotstream, light trax has you driving your line across the screen, up walls, into the z-axis and over bumps in the track. After each heat, you'll also drive on the game's "Freeways," offering a more laid back cruise to the next level and a different way to challenge oneself. The slipstreaming strategy from Dotstream—make sure to "drive" closely to one or more of your opponent's light trails to build your boost—is here, but the techniques elsewhere are sometimes different. For a Dotstream vet, there's something new to love in this WiiWare gem.
Chipper Music: Dotstream was memorable for its chippy, peppy soundtrack, but light trax's is better. There's more variety, with songs ranging from early Depeche Mode-like synth pop dance tracks to darker techno, thick with bass, that would fit into a game like Rez. It's the kind of video game soundtrack I would buy, if given the chance.
Hard & Easy: There's some rote memorization required to complete this simple-looking, but deviously challenging racing game, but there's also some well-masked strategy that can help overcome the need to bang one's brain against the tracks. Thoughtful trade-offs, like choosing when to power through a speed-sapping rough patch or to blow your life meter on a burst of speed, ensure that it's not just racetrack familiarity that will help you win. light trax is very challenging, but worth studying.
As a devout fan of "bit Generations" game Dotstream, my opinion of Art Style: light trax may be slanted, but the WiiWare rework of the whittled down original is a stylish success. It's as much puzzle game as it is racing game, a chance to feel like you're watching a Tron lightcycle match from the nosebleed section. Tough, pure as they come, and pleasantly devoid of flash, light trax is a boost for Nintendo's Art Style brand.
Art Style: light trax was developed by Skip and published by Nintendo for WiiWare on May 24. Retails for 600 Nintendo Points or $6.00 USD. Nintendo Points were provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed all Light Tours races.
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