Trials Evolution Review

The original Trials game, subtitled simply HD, ended up being a smash hit for developer RedLynx when it dropped on the Xbox Live Arcade several years ago. The combination of addictive physics-based biking and gruelingly difficult puzzle solving made for a unique and interesting combination that kept gamers coming back for more. Now RedLynx has released the perfect sequel in Evolution, and giddy fans have no excuse to stop playing thanks to a vast series of challenges and an intuitive level editor.

The core of the Trials experience is still very much the same as it was last time. You will have to ride your dirt bike across an array of increasingly ridiculous courses, all while manipulating the physics of your vehicle so as not to fall. The more you fall, the more you will have to reset your biker, and the more resets you use, the lower your end score will be. Because the tracks quickly escalate to such intense difficulty, you will find yourself resetting to the beginning of the levels often. Luckily, there are no load times between when you hit reset and when the game plops you back at the beginning of the track, making for a smooth and seamless experience. When you fail a track, you won’t even have time to get frustrated before the next run is beginning.

Even after you successfully complete a run, you may find yourself going back for repeat tries. As mentioned earlier, the less you crash, the higher a score you can look forward to getting at the end of the level. This, along with the speed of your run, determines which medal you will receive. The game will tell you how close you are to receiving the next medal, making it difficult to resist the temptation of going back to previous levels to improve your game.

The fact that you can actually see your skills evolving in front of you is a testament to just how well-balanced Trials Evolution is. There are very few controls to speak of in Evolution, with the Right Trigger determining your throttle and the Left Trigger your brakes. Other than those basic commands, you will mostly be shifting the weight of your biker from front to back using the Left Stick. These controls are simple to pick up, but incredibly difficult to master. When you have mastered the art of shifting your rider’s weight at just the right moment in a pivotal jump, the feeling of satisfaction will be palpable. The only mild annoyance I can level against the campaign mode is that sometimes the jumps are so high that you can’t actually see the ground beneath you, making it impossible to know which direction you should be leaning your weight in. This happens rarely enough, and the checkpoints load quickly enough, that it isn’t much of a problem, though.

A large suite of challenges add (oftentimes hilarious) variety to the core Trials gameplay, and serve to pad out the game nicely once you have finished with the campaign. Although they lack the guided structure of the main campaign, their more freeform nature can often provide a more enjoyable experience. The challenge mode is where I found myself having the most fun. Each challenge will bring with it a new spin on the classic Trials biking gameplay. In one challenge, your bike will be broken and you will not be able to brake. You will have to ride for as long as possible without crashing. In another absurd event, your bike will be replaced with skis and you will be tasked with pulling off crazy flips and jumps to impress the crowd. To spoil any more of the challenges would be a disservice to those who haven’t played them yet, so I’ll just say that they are the best part of a game already bursting with fantastic content.

When you finally run out of that content, though, a level editor will provide hours of extra entertainment. The great thing about the level editor is that it won’t restrict you to making a biking game. Instead, you can make a top-down space shooter, or a Marble Madness-styled puzzle game, or any other combination of 2D games you can come up with. I was surprised to see just how in-depth some of the levels already are only a few days after the game’s launch.

Online multiplayer is also present in Evolution for those who would rather compete than create. This will take the standard race format, throwing in a few of the wrinkles from the campaign to spice things up. Managing your balance is still a big deal in multiplayer, making it as much a test of intelligence as speed. The most addictive form of multiplayer comes in the form of Evolution’s leaderboards, though. Unlike most games, which have static leaderboards tucked away in a menu somewhere, Evolution will actively show you how you are doing compared to your friends in each run. A little dot representing your friend’s ghosts will hover around behind your rider during the single player events, driving you to complete the courses and challenges to a fuller extent than they did. It’s an ingenious way of spurring on competition.

Trials Evolution is a difficult game to review, not because it lacks any significant qualities that you would expect of a game like this, but rather because it’s just so darn hard to find fault with it. The single player campaign is grueling but satisfying, the challenges are hilariously addictive, and the integration of leaderboards into the gameplay is simply brilliant. A flexible level editor and robust online community are just the icing on this delicious, mud-splattered cake.

Score: 10/10

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