In the future, according to TrickStyle's manual, a long period of war has given way to a utopian corpocracy called the One World Confederacy. Jobs are scarce and unneeded, so in the absence of meaningful labor, the bored populace turns to hover-ride racing for entertainment. The hover-ride is a skateboard with its wheels replaced by a jet engine. Ported from the Sega Dreamcast, TrickStyle is a game about racing hover-rides, and a game whose fancy graphics substitute for both length and depth of play.
TrickStyle's graphics are definitely fancy. Above all, it's a great-looking game. The designers at Criterion Studios have wisely chosen to abandon the dark, dystopian look popularized by Blade Runner and regurgitated in virtually every depiction of the future since. Instead, they've created a world of bright colors, clean lines, and giant, recognizable structures. TrickStyle is composed of 15 races plus three boss contests across three urban settings - London, Manhattan, and Tokyo. Each track is exquisitely detailed and packed with colorful lighting, impressive architecture, amazing sky effects, and moving obstacles such as hurtling trains and rocket cars. The city areas are accessed through a central hub, a stadium called the Velodrome. Here, you can freely practice the tricks you know and unlock new moves by accepting and winning a sequential series of 16 races and stunt challenges presented to you by the Guide, TrickStyle's narrator and your coach.
Fifteen separate tracks, sixteen stadium challenges, and three boss levels sounds reasonably lengthy, but TrickStyle is actually one of the shortest games in a while. You can finish it in one good three- or four-hour sitting. While the tracks are unquestionably beautiful, they are far too short. Instead of making the races lap-based, which would have lengthened them, each race against the computer simply involves getting from one point to another faster than the other participants do, and those participants are not particularly skillful. True to its utopian setting, TrickStyle is a hugely egalitarian racing game; no matter how badly you play, you're never completely out of the running. Racers ahead of you seem to slow down or even stop so that they don't pull too far ahead, and no passed racer is ever far behind you.
The artificial closeness of each race might have been designed to raise tension, but it ends up making the game very easy. Levels have multiple routes and time-saving shortcuts, but these nuances needn't be investigated in order to prevail. Many of the tracks can be beaten on the first attempt, more through luck and the ineptness of the other computer racers than through any skill on your part. Only a few of the tracks, such as the first and last of the Tokyo series, include devious architectural features that must be circumnavigated rather than just plowed through, and these rare instances are by far the best moments in the game.
Worse yet, the many board tricks you can pull are not integrated into the races. Only the basic jump, spin, and speed-up moves are really necessary to win. Pulling tricks is necessary in some of the Velodrome and boss challenges, but these are at least as easy as the main races and feel more like bonus games than part of the action.
So what's left after you quickly finish TrickStyle? Extremists can solve it again and again with all nine playable characters. Each one is given a lavish personal history in the manual but is only differentiated in the game through unique graphics, several shortened or lengthened status bars, and a few annoying catchphrases. There are some secrets to unlock and a few different hover-rides to play with. You can revisit the 15 tracks and try to beat your best time or score. A two-player mode is included, but it doesn't support Internet or LAN connections; true to TrickStyle's console origin, you and a friend must play together on a split screen. It works but is too simple to have much staying power. Lastly, you can just listen to the soundtrack, the music of the future, which sounds remarkably similar to today's generic techno.
On the Dreamcast, TrickStyle is definitely worth the price of a rental. It's an amazing-looking game and pleasant enough to play through once. Unfortunately, PC gamers don't have the luxury of renting and must hold games to a higher standard of value, and TrickStyle's ridiculously short length and lack of real challenge make it impossible to justify purchasing. It's nothing more than a brief tour of some impressive scenery.