In 2009, Finnish Developer RedLynx released the XBLA exclusive Trials HD. A great game, it took trail bikes, level building, and the physics of momentum and weight distribution, mashed them all up and came up with a challenging and addictive side-scrolling puzzler.
Where Trials HD was good, Trials Evolution is better. Easy to get into, the game is packed with features. The 60 inventive and diverse levels take you from desert battlefields to sewage plants. You can compete in four player races both locally and online, or use the extensive and powerful level creator to build and share levels. It looks fantastic, will have you playing for hours, and just when you think you’re done you’ll find yourself going back for just one more go.
Trials Evolution is so good that the award for downloadable game of the year may already be locked up.
Like the best games, the premise for Trials Evolution is very simple. Drive your motorbike across dirt tracks, broken bridges, and misty moors. Ride over obstacles like cars, castles walls and broken down roller coasters. Accelerate with one trigger, brake with the other, and move your weight forward or back with the analog stick. Get to the end within time limit, and without falling, and you earn a medal and some cash.
To even get past the early levels takes a bit of practice. The basic skill the game requires is getting your rider’s lean and acceleration right to make it over the terrain. Leaning too far forward or back, and accelerating just a touch too much, will see your rider flat on his back. But once you go over the top, and get some air, you have to adjust your rider to level out for a good landing. Get the landing right and you get a nice run into the next obstacle. Get it wrong and you’ll be fighting for control or simply burying your front wheel in the dirt and flying over the handlebars.
But falling off is half the fun of Trials Evolution. Mastering the delicate controls over relatively realistic motocross tracks takes a bit of finesse. So it’s very satisfying when you get it right. But, the game also goes big. You’ll find yourself climbing high towers, jumping across broken bridges over very long drops, or racing down ramps and making enormous jumps like you’re Sonic the Hedgehog.
Getting to the end of a run gets you a bronze pass. Getting to the end of a run without falling, and within the time limit, gets you a gold pass. Pass enough levels and you unlock harder courses. Once you have unlocked enough levels you get to try the skill challenges. The skill challenges add a new flavour to the game where as well as you bike and rider, you can control a track-ball, your rider on skis, or even a flying saucer. Although the controls in the skill challenges can be weird and very touchy, it’s fun and is a good distraction when the normal single player challenges get a bit too frustrating.
Also a bit frustrating is the Trials Evolution multiplayer mode. Either locally, or online, you can compete in races against three other riders. While it can take a bit of time to find a race, once you get going, the game feels completely different. You’re in a race – so you want to go fast. But, just like in the single player mode, hitting the gas and getting your balance wrong, just means falling off. These racers aren’t about hitting the accelerator, they’re about riding properly and staying in control.
But, if it’s control you want, the Trials Evolution level builder gives you unlimited control. In Track Central mode you have a choice between Lite and Pro editors. Lite gives you a user friendly experience where you can drop jumps and obstacles around a course, give it a name and get it online to see what your friend and the online community thinks. While Pro gives you the same tools the developers used to make the game. So the only thing holding you back is your imagination.
When a game is as good as Trials Evolution, you find yourself looking for reasons not to give it a perfect score. Usually the faults you find are small and unimportant. With Trials Evolution the gear and bike upgrades are kind of pointless and there’s some decent difficulty spikes, especially when it comes to getting your A-licence and unlocking the hardest levels. Spikes that may bring the single player mode to a grinding halt for some gamers. Also, matching up for online races can be a long wait. But, although the soundtrack is generic, it’s appropriate and the woohooo’s coming from your rider as he gets impossible air add nicely to the game’s smile factor.
When the dust settles and the engines cool, Trials Evolution is something special. Sure it has a learning curve, but it's also very playable. The track editor is amazing, and there's already a tonne of user created stuff online. Yes, it’s difficult and frustrating, but in the best possible way. And it is simply packed with small, delicate challenges, and truly epic jumps and bails.
So what are you waiting for? Get on your bike and get playing.