Don't be fooled by Trackmania's friendly good looks. Trackmania is a beast of simple compulsion. The presentation is simple, the racing tracks are short - the idea is to play them again, and again, until you get it right.
Your single player career begins with races, controlling six vehicles with radically different handling. The track-hugging F1 cars, the comically oversized and heavy-drifting Coast levels, the turn-on-a-sixpence buggies... each of the six track types comes with a car that you'll grow to love as you learn its quirks.
You'll need to learn all 120 tracks well as one bounce from a bumper will have you tapping the minus button to restart the course. Fortunately, it's the ability to do this instantly that makes Trackmania compulsive and infuriating in equal measures.
It's not all nerve-fraying tension though. The track creation mode is where you can briefly relax as the simple interface lets you quickly snap tracks together, and you can spend the coppers you earn from medals in the main game on unlocking new blocks. It's occasionally tricky to get everything to snap together - especially when you're making a track with pieces at different heights - but once you learn to use the rotate and zoom tools, it gets a lot easier.
After making your first track, you'll unlock the puzzle levels, which are a clever combination of race and track creation. You're given an incomplete track and enough pieces to complete it, and then you have to finish the race in a given time. Some puzzles are obvious but later on, they become a devious, testing and brilliant exercise in efficiency. It's just a shame there aren't many puzzle levels (there are just 21) and that the unlock conditions are so tough.
The same goes for the platforming levels, and this is where you'll get up to some of the game's most immediately satisfying and ridiculous acrobatics. These levels are rated not by time, but by the number of retries required to complete them. This allows for longer, more testing tracks, but again, the unlock conditions are harsh and may prove too testing for most people's patience levels.
Trackmania's multiplayer is a curiously serious, Olympian affair. You race against ghosts, in a bid to shave hundredths of seconds off your time. It's still exciting, but taking that element of blue shell unfairness out of the equation is what makes Trackmania such an unapologetically hardcore affair.
For all its unforgiving nature though, Trackmania is still a huge amount of fun. The single player mode provides a good variety of challenges and the track creation and sharing feature is great. But just remember: despite its immediate appeal, Trackmania is a game that only really opens up with dogged persistence. If you don't have that in plentiful supply, move along.