I admit it. I’m addicted. Trackmania is my addiction of choice. The thrills of getting round that tricky chicane perfectly and the sheer exhilaration of speed felt makes this a game to be avoided at all costs if you value your time. Trackmania abuses our mind into playing into the long evening hours shaving hundredths off of a thirty-second lap. Their developers ‘Nadeo’ have perfected the much admired ‘Just one more play’ factor which many games have tried in the past. This factor is what gives a game replay value.
Another game that uses this effect perfectly is the popular platformer ‘N’ in which simply pressing space after falling into a mine will instantly reset the level to its original state. More recently, ‘Super Meat Boy’ which is commonly known as one of the toughest platformers around requiring pixel-perfect jumps every time. Interestingly enough, the developers ‘Team Meat’ didn’t even include a reset button in their final game simply stating “There’s too many ways to die. If you want to restart just launch yourself into a spinning wheel of death spikes.”
Trackmania is particularly interesting because it isn’t a platformer. I’m not aware of many other games other than platformers who can pull off the ‘Just one more play’ move effectively. Some may argue that ‘Plants Vs Zombies’ achieves this and I would agree. The multiplatform PopCap epic doesn’t really fall into a particular genre however. I wouldn’t class it as a Tower Defence although it does have certain game mechanics that are similar. It could also be seen as a Puzzle, Casual or a Strategy game. If it was in a Venn diagram, I imagine it would be the small squiggly bit in the middle. But it still doesn’t have quite the same reset functionality that a ‘Just one more play’ game needs. A few misplaced Sunflowers or Peashooters early on in a Survival level can really affect the strategy in the late game and because it may be 15 minutes before this point is reached, the reset value isn’t every 10 seconds or so which is what is ideal for this type of game mechanic.
On the subject of PopCap, another casual gaming classic ‘Peggle’ struggles to fit into a genre. It features a ball being launched into the level and being bounced off different colour pegs each of different ability and score. Released in 2007 and inspired by the Japanese pinball classic ‘Pachinko’, it tricks people into having more and more attempts by having a huge range of levels and in-game achievements to beat which all adds up to the embarrassment of playing a game with talking unicorns in at 1 in the morning after being tempted into infinite attempts.
So apart from platformers and the well-polished games produced by PopCap, is Trackmania one of the only games to hit the small line of replay-abilty that most developers desire?