The clashing sound of metal gears, the dust lifted from a skidding tyre, the elated cheers of a perfect run, and the enraged noises of a gamer frustrated by a near-impossible challenge. Trials Evolution evokes all of these and more should you choose to take on its wealth of tracks, which as fans of the original will remember, can vary from surprisingly easy from the opening tournaments to horrendously difficult later on. What they might not know is just how appropriate the title actually is; where a simple ‘Trials 2’ would have sufficed had it been just any old sequel, the term ‘evolution’ really does hold ground here, representing a true and significant step up for the series.
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Reviewed)
Players: Single-Player. Multi-Player
Genre: Platform, Racing
Release: April 18th, 2012
Trials HD performed extremely well a few years ago, becoming infamous for its unforgiving challenge yet receiving lavish praise for its accessibility and solid course design… not to mention the many amusing ways in which your rider could bite the dust given the awaiting hazards. It was essentially a stunt game centred on a dirt bike and a healthy selection of obstacle courses, albeit with an explosive twist. Trials Evolution looks to take what came before it and inject this formula with new life; true enough, you’ll still be struggling up steep ramps and flying across tremendous ravines, but the simplicity of it all proves to be a major selling point, in turn making things even more addictive.
The first thing you’ll notice is just how much more welcoming everything appears. Where Trials HD played on the abandoned warehouse vibe a little too liberally, this instalment moves away in favour of imaginative – and more to the point, considerably more atmospheric – locations which primarily take place outside. Your rider will soar through the air and silhouette against the setting sun before plummeting to the ground, through waterlogged areas and up over scattered cars. Explosions offer spectacle and add a little extra something to the bigger jumps – you’ll inevitably be swearing in frustration once the easier tracks have been conquered, but even then it’s impossible to deny how strong the game remains on a visual level.
Not everything is as solid, however, as Trials Evolution features a soundtrack which can charitably be described as forgettable. It does suit the theme of the game at least, plus it never pulls you out of the experience, making it a hard thing to criticise to any great extent. As impressive as the visuals are on the whole, there are a couple of visual hiccups such as pop-in, which becomes apparent when the player goes for a restart. Retrying from a checkpoint is instantaneous and load times aren’t a problem however, so the technical trade-offs are fair given the advantages from a gameplay standpoint.
It’s the way in which the game rewards you for your efforts that will have you coming back for more. Nearly every track offers a bronze, silver and gold medal for your efforts, with finishing time and number of faults serving as the primary indicators on how well you performed. Silver and gold awards are easy enough to obtain early on, but just an hour in and you’ll notice a significant jump in difficulty. Pretty soon, simply finishing a track will be an achievement in itself, making the medals – complete with prerequisites – seem almost impossible to reach on your first few attempts. Needless to say, Trials Evolution rewards those masochistic enough to replay tough stages for a higher score.
The course design is much more varied this time around and can seem like something of a rollercoaster, albeit one where you control a physics-based dirt bike. It can be equally as thrilling, with all the twist, turns, looping and jump tricks you could hope for and more. It all gives way to a great sense of achievement, but those hoping for a little more will be happy to discover that they can create and share tracks of their very own with the editing tool. Budding creators hoping to dive in and get to grips with the basics are welcome to do so with the Lite version of the tool, while those feeling more confident have a more advanced version available (the Pro Editor, which is the very tool the developers used to create the game itself). This offers many hours of fun if you’re that way inclined, but those with little interest will find enough content here regardless.
Gamers looking to challenge friends locally can feel free to do so, or they can hop online for real-time races. This will no doubt serve as a draw for those seeking something more competitive, though being able to see the ghost of your friend during the single-player trials is also a welcome addition, and will no doubt have you hurriedly chasing that white dot with your friend’s gamertag all the way to the finish line. Another nice mode comes in the form of the skill games, which do a good job of switching up the formula to give a taste of something different. The completion requirements vary depending on the mission, though it’s worth mentioning that these feel like an afterthought as opposed to a fully-featured addition.
Trials Evolution offers the next stage in downloadable dirt biking thrills and serves up a challenge with the potential to make even the most seasoned gamer weep in frustration. There’s a lot to love and very little to criticise, with a focus on accessibility which means that just about anyone can have a go, particularly when it comes to earlier courses. It is physics-based however, and so the controls can feel overly twitchy at times, needlessly bouncy in others, and slowing you down with a lack of momentum at exactly the wrong time. In short, you’ll have to practise for many hours if you’re hoping to master everything that the game has to offer. Casual players will still find a great time to be had, with a drip-fed reward system that will actually make them want to improve. The price is right and the content is better than ever, making this entry in the Trials series an evolution indeed.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.