Game Rant’s Andrew Dyce reviews Trials Evolution
After storming onto the console market with the release and instant success of Trials HD for the Xbox 360, the development team at RedLynx is promising a new dimension of gameplay with Trials Evolution. As one of the first offerings of Xbox Live’s Arcade Next promotion, the pressure to raise the bar is on.
With more tracks, more skill challenges, and the addition of customizable riders, bikes and even a track editor, the feature lists have certainly grown. But do the nagging issues we had with the original game’s difficulty curves still remain?
If there was one aspect of the original Trials that immediately clicked with racing enthusiasts and arcade gamers, it was the over-the-top insanity and unabashed attitude that the developers packed into every level. The seas of hovering boardwalks and explosive barrels are still here in spades, accompanying just as many nods to fellow game designers and franchises. With homages paid to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Limbo, Angry Birds and more, any fears that the unique sensibility behind the original game would be lost with the increased size and scope of Evolution are unfounded.
In more than a few ways, Evolution is every bit the polished product that was promised with the first game. Improved graphics in terms of the obstacles themselves and the surrounding environments are just the tip of the iceberg where technical improvements are concerned. Where the first Trials took place in essentially a left-to-right flat plane, Evolution locks the player’s camera to the bike as it moves through the play space, doing a great deal to break the gameplay out of the simple ‘side-scrolling’ category. 3D environments that span massive distances and heights, even curling back on themselves is the result, and the overall effect can’t be understated. Trials may be the most fun you can have with physics on XBLA, but that doesn’t mean it confines itself to realism.
Fans of the first game may have simply been asking for more levels and challenges to unleash their abilities, but the 60 new singleplayer tracks are as varied and fresh as can be hoped for. Dynamic environments – like collapsing bridges and dams, or spillways filling with water – offer new obstacles and challenges, helping to deliver an experience that’s more well-realized and well-rounded than the original. But even with such a strong dedication to real-world physics and ride mechanics, not a minute goes by without a burst of zaniness or jaw-dropping twists reminding the player that this game is meant to be fun, above all else.
In terms of content and features, there is simply no comparison between Evolution and its predecessor. More singleplayer tracks, more inspired and addictive skill challenges and the ability to unlock rider gear and bike accessories with in-game currency provide an overall experience that is miles ahead of the original.
If playing with friends is something that goes hand-in-hand with your Trials sessions, then the addition of 4-player local co-operative racing is a dream come true. With each racer confined to a single track, and falling behind the locked camera resulting in a respawn at the next checkpoint, the multiplayer modes actually work much better than one might expect from the series’ trademark tomfoolery. Online play is also available, racing against either live opponents or player ghosts. Since the multiplayer races tend to be a bit straightforward compared to the singleplayer mayhem, most of the fun will need to be derived from showing up one’s own friends. That’s a bit of a disappointment compared to the flawless singleplayer, but can only be expected from the mode’s limitations.
If the addition of even more races and challenges is too intimidating, rest easy. While the original Trials explained the simple controls before thrusting the player onto the track, aided only by spray-painted diagrams, Evolution is far less punishing in its introduction. The 60 tracks are divided into difficulties, with a specific driver’s licence needed to unlock them. Licences can only be earned when enough previous tracks have been mastered, meaning a bronze medal on each track won’t be good enough to move on. But with success often tied more to patience and precision than lap times, replays rarely become more frustrating than challenging.
With each new set of tracks comes a walkthrough of the specific skills that will need to be understood, and in what scenarios they will be called for. If a brand new player focuses only on grasping the physics behind the tricks being taught, then their odds are far better than speed demons who simply wish to open the throttle. There are still bound to be a few hurdles that twitch and precision just can’t defeat, but a challenge isn’t meant to be easy. It would be nice if the game reminded the player of how to tackle a steep climb after two dozen failed attempts, although knowing the solution is completely clear to those paying attention and does offer serious motivation.
If the original Trials was easily conquered by some, it’s safe to assume that the brand new level editor will soon provide even more impossibly difficult tracks. Level editors are often a mixed bag in racing games, but Evolution does just about everything that can be expected to please the devoted fans. Nearly every in-game obstacle, ramp, accessory or asset is available for the creative-minded to do as they please. The maps pre-fabricated by RedLynx are remarkable for several reasons, ranging from Angry Birds knock-offs to FPS shooting galleries and even a 2D spaceship-shooter. Most will be more inclined toward Excite Bike covers.
It makes sense that a level editor with this much potential would be somewhat unwieldy and confusing at best – even the ‘Editor Lite’ version – and most who attempt to craft their own amazing track will likely come up short. That being said, the same accusations could be made about LittleBigPlanet. With a loyal fan base and the ability to share, rate and edit created tracks online for free, the sky is the limit for Evolutions‘ player-created content.
Trials Evolution certainly lives up to its name, becoming the full game that the original Trials HD left fans hungry for. In other words, one of the best games available for XBLA – and, considering its price, this is a no-brainer.
Trials Evolution is available through Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.