If you're anything like me, very few games these days have you replaying them just so you can master them. Most games get a thorough play through, and some are even a battle to finish, but not many have you reloading completed levels just to better your last performance.
Not a perfectionist? You soon will be with Trials HD. Entering a section at the wrong speed, getting your body balance wrong or bouncing too high after a flawed landing will all have you hitting the reset button and trying, trying, trying again. If you can't stand repetition or are easily frustrated, you had better stay well clear of this one. Anyone that is just a little bit competitive will have a ball. Right from the level select screen, you can see where you are placed in relation to any of your friends that have played the same track. Also, while playing the game, it will constantly update you on your performance relative to these times. This creates a huge sense of competitiveness as you can instantly see if anyone has beaten any of your scores when you get home from work, ensuring that you spend a good chunk of the evening until you have reclaimed your title - usually by .01 of a second.
Chugging through the levels in the first place isn't too hard until later on, and the game is generous with check points. Shaving split seconds off your time and beating people on your friends list, on the other hand, will require nerves of steel, co-ordination and even some raw talent (or luck). Even levels that seem simple initially have a lot of hidden depth when you really push it.
The gameplay takes place on a 2D plane and the goal is to get to the right hand side of the screen. Of course it's not as easy as this. Many obstacles stand in your way and to overcome these you will need to master throttle control and weight balance to hop over objects and clear jumps. Luckily then the physics are, for the most part, up to the job. At first the bike's handling feels a bit floaty, and after a lot of practice, it still does - but it is a lot more controllable. It's amazing how much precision you can manage - and have to manage - by the time you get to the later levels. Going back to earlier levels, though, you get to dominate obstacles that held you up the first time through. Generally if I do get a bit stuck, I load up an earlier level for some revenge on the game.
A good distraction are the rag doll physics. There are a huge amount of ways to destroy your character, from simply landing on your front wheel and edoing over the bars, to landing on some TNT and blasting your rider to the roof of the level. Taking some time out just to play with this can be a good laugh, especially if you have some mates over and turn it into a competition. Sometimes an especially brutal off will take the edge off messing up an otherwise perfect run.
If you want to take a break from the leaderboards, you can chill out and play with the rather powerful level design tool. You start with an empty space and can stack objects and ramps. Each object can be angled and positioned how you want, but this mode really doesn't come into its own until you find the advanced mode which lets you customise your level a lot more. At any point you can jump into your level to test the latest segment, and if you want to design a nice flowing level, it will require a lot of testing. For some bizarre reason, though, the levels you make can only be shared with friends, which lowers the motivation to create anything too intense. If the game had a good community set up for exchanging tracks and challenging people at their own creations, it would have added a lot to the lastibility of this game and encouraged much more radical track designs. Perhaps this will be added eventually via downloadable updates?
All up Trials HD is a fun play through, but to get the most out of it you really need to get some competition happening. Just playing through the game won't keep you occupied for a huge amount of time, but trying for top times and tinkering with the level editor will keep more dedicated players busy for absolutely ages. I know I personally will keep firing this game up well after this review is published and making sure my times are still respectable.
If you do get Trials HD, be sure to jump into our forums and compare your times.