Updated: November 3, 2018
Arcade is not really my thing. But sometimes, when you're really tired and your brain is buzzing by on fumes of intelligence and borderline paranoia that comes from extreme exhaustion, arcade can be a lifesaver. Sometimes, you just want something simple, raw and straightforward.
TrackMania Nations Forever is exactly that - a simple, no-nonsense - actually yes-nonsense - arcade racer, which lets you compete solo (Han Solo) against the computer or play against other humans, on your local network or online. Strap into a sled on wheels and start racing. Don't worry about physics. Worry about besting your foe as you hockey-puck through, around and over mad, delirium-architected tracks. Let's do a review, shall we?
Get the game
This is a Windows title, but it will work cross-platform on Linux with a little help from your friends, i.e. Wine. In fact, in Ubuntu, things are made even simpler through the use of a snap package, so you just need to install a single app, launch it, let it auto-update and whatnot, and you're ready to have some serious fun. The whole WINE vomit whatnot is hidden away.
snap install tmnationsforever
One thing that may surprise you is - the simple graphics. Duh! That's because this is a 2008 title really. An old game, available for free, with some small caveats and surreptitious advertising, a tech demo for the new Track Mania 2, which comes with nicer graphics, nicer maps/levels and more cars. The free version seems to offer a single vehicle, and the only thing you can customize is the national flag on the bolid.
Commence to fun
The game's interface is a bit cluttered, but still perfectly usable. You have multiple color-coded levels; the higher the more complex the tracks and the challenge. Each one, except the black, features five unlocked levels, and normally, in the singleplayer mode, you need to beat at least the bronze-medal AI in each one of these to unlock the next batch. Things get progressively more difficult. Fun and frustration ensue.
Most races are short and sweet, but there are also multi-lap endurance races, where you need to be really careful, as mistakes accumulate. TrackMania is also a super-fast game. You need quick reflexes, and sometimes, you'll be asked to perform wild acrobatics, dodge obstacles and all that without any regard to real physics. You'll be loving it one minute and swearing eloquently the next. It is amazing how something so seemingly innocent can grip you. But it's a good, healthy distraction from everyday life.
After you finish each race, you will be given opportunity to improve your time, or race against better opponents; if you've beaten bronze, you'll be asked to try racing silver. If you set a record time that beats even the best AI opponent, you'll get all three medals right away. Your score will be compared to the global ladder as well as your regional zone. Seems like there are roughly 10 million users in the systems. Nice. You can also replay and save your races.
The screenshot functionality (F10) didn't always work reliably, especially inside the game menus, and sometimes during the races. The images also look less phenomenal than the official press package, of course, but again, that should not detract you from having fun. TrackMania Nations Forever is not about sophistication and startling graphics. Quite the opposite. Although, you can download custom cars, but this didn't quite work for me.
TrackMania Nations Forever is a very cool little game. Simple, non-pretentious. Fun. Beware, though. You will find yourself trying to best your record, to edge and squeeze a few extra milliseconds off your lap record, and sometimes, the AI (or other players) will stubbornly continue besting you. Some of the levels will be almost impossible to master quickly. The Zen-like state of relaxation will quickly transform into dedicated frenzy.
The best thing is, system requirements are low. So you can install this anywhere you like. Should provide ample fun for when you're not in the mood for any complicated mental exercises. Definitely worth checking. Save your serious simulators for when you're alert and focused, and keep TrackMania as your stress relief pill, in addition to all your other pills, red and blue, ha ha ha ho ho ho. And then, for when I feel serious, I'm gonna try Euro Truck Simulator. Holy. See ya.