Developer: RedLynx / Publisher: Microsoft / Played On: Xbox 360 / Price: $14.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Mild Violence]
The roots of the Trials franchise reach as far back as flash games on the PC. These entries consisted of navigating your motor-bike rider through a two-dimensional course overcoming challenging obstacles.
The 2010 hit Trials HD was the series’ first foray into the realm of 3D, and was very well received for keeping the fun and difficult 2D gameplay intact while expanding its visuals into full 3D.
Now we have Trials Evolution, revved up and ready to challenge its predecessor. Is it as fun? It certainly is, but the amount of depth and replayability from the game’s many modes and built in level-editor is an even bigger reason to download this entertaining rally bike racer.
Gameplay & Controls
Trials Evolution is all about driving your bike from start to finish, leaping off ramps, jumping massive gaps, and avoiding bike-toppling obstacles. A simple enough concept in writing, but put in motion, Trials is a whole different beast.
Controls are simple enough–right trigger for acceleration, left trigger for brake, and left analog stick for leaning forward and backward, used for balancing and maneuvering over and under obstacles in the game. The B button is also used for resetting to a checkpoint, and the back button is reserved for warping back to the starting line.
After zooming down a few mountains and shamefully crashing down a flight of stairs (all painfully animated, by the way) it’s apparent how exhilarating and difficult the game can be. This is because it’s not just about going fast and scoring the best times, it’s about surviving the entire course while taking as few falls off your bike as possible.
Each fault (received after falling off your bike) you receive not only takes precious seconds off your speed runs, it also resets you to a checkpoint–which is a blessing in that you don’t have to start all over, and a curse in that you lose precious, needed seconds on that run.
It’s on that note that I must bring up the best part of Trials Evolution–the difficulty. In a world where to many games are just simply too easy, Trials successfully captures that “old arcade feel” in that there are levels where you mash the restart button dozens, if not hundreds of times to nail a new personal best time. Its style is much in the vein of something like Super Meat Boy, where you’ll fail an absurd amount of times, but notice what you did wrong and dive back in for another try.
Fortunately, the process of restarting to a checkpoint or even the beginning of a level is instantaneous — crucial to a game where starting over will happen very, very frequently. While players like me will still become frustrated at their 237th fault on the same map, they’ll almost always drop back in for another try because continuing is so seamless–no loading screens, no stalling, just starting again right away.
The level of customization you have over your rider and bike is pretty impressive as well, with the ability to swap out helmets, jackets, pants and shoes for your rider, not to mention the colors of each. The same applies to the pieces on your bike, which you can adjust to your liking.
While there are both singleplayer and multiplayer modes, the two blend together incredibly well.
In single-player mode, you race against the clock and your friend’s ghosts. Whenever you race on a course that’s been racked by fellow Trials owners on your friends list, small dots with your friends gamer tags will appear at the starting line with you, following the path of their fastest time when the clock starts ticking. This compels you to not only complete the level, but do so while kicking the rear ends of friends who’ve already set better times.
Though ghost modes have been used in racing games time and time again since the Mario Kart days, its seamless implementation is what’s incredibly rewarding, especially if you have competitive friends.
Multiplayer is similar, except you and up to three others (locally or over Xbox Live) can race in real-time against each other for the best runs. The feeling is similar to the ghosts in single-player, but the ability to shout at your friends through your headset (or right beside you) causing them to slip and miss a jump is vastly satisfying.
Couch multiplayer is strikingly different from live play, but a welcome addition nonetheless. I use the word different because, unlike Xbox Live, you and up to three of your friends share one screen for all your racers. The setup is similar to a horse racing track, where all four lanes rest side-by-side and run parallel to each other. If all players keep up with each other, the camera follows suit and stays centered–but if someone falls behind and off-screen, that person earns one fault and will respawn when the next player passes a checkpoint.
Oddly though, the moment a checkpoint is passed, all previously “downed” players will respawn instantaneously, almost taking away from the fact that they fell down moments before. Since they’re placed right in line with the leading racer, it feels unfair to the more skilled player on the couch who worked for his victory.
It’s an innovative way of handling local multiplayer to avoid splitting screens, but Xbox Live is considerably better for competitive matches. However, I can see it making for a fun party game since it makes such great use of a single screen and keeps the action from coming to a halt.
One feature of note that spans across both local and live modes is the ability to turn on a “bailout finish,” which allows players to hurl themselves off their bikes and across the finish line. While this normally counts as a fault and would require a checkpoint restart, having this enabled means that anyone who uses this “rag doll catapult” approach to cross the finish line first will arise victorious. It’s a hilariously awesome option for making some already absurdly close competitions even more ridiculous.
To break up the amount of racing and obstacle dodging, Trials Evolution includes an awesome set of skill games. From launching yourself from ramps and flapping cardboard wings to try and cover the most distance, to driving as far as you can on limited gas, to going over as many obstacles as you can with the gas pedal stuck to the floor and the brakes busted, these side activities are whacky and zany mini-games with the sole focus of creating leaderboard tension between you, your friends, and the world.
Going for the highest score in these skill events incites the same feeling as racing ghosts in single-player–it’s brutally challenging, laughably fun, and overly rewarding when achieved.
Additionally, there are 12 iconic “squirrels” hidden around the many courses of Trials Evolution. It’s an achievement to find them all, a fun bonus for all you collectible hunters out there.
Finally, there’s the built-in track editor used for creating your own tracks to share with your buddies and the community. Thankfully, there are two versions of the editor: one for inexperienced creators called the “lite editor” and the “pro editor” for those a bit more knowledgeable.
While there’s technically only one map to create on, the scope of the landscape you have to work with is incredible in size, with several different themes and styles scattered across this multiple-mile area.
In the editor, you can place down any object in Trials’ impressive sandbox, including anything from any mode. If you’re not convinced, consider the fact that the default levels were created with this track editor–meaning that all the awesome levels built into the game by the developers were made with the tools at your disposal.
This means access to physics options, object animations, event triggers and full route design. If it can be compared to anything, it’s incredibly similar to the Forge mode found in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, but with much more flexibility.
At press time, the community of Trials Evolution owners has already created hundreds of user levels. You’re not only restricted to making levels for the traditional Trials experience though, you’re allowed to go LittleBigPlanet levels of crazy on your levels, if you have the prowess and knowhow to do so.
For example, I’ve already downloaded tracks that play like Galaga, Lunar Lander, and Marble Blast Ultra. There’s the ability to create entire mini-games within Trials Evolution, and it’s a downright impressive accomplishment for an Xbox Live Arcade title.
Visuals & Sound
While the previous game had many, many levels to play, all of them were set inside a warehouse. Notably, the design team was able to make some pretty, reflective indoor environments with Trials HD, but the color palette sadly became dull very quickly.
Thankfully, the warehouse doors were thrown open in Evolution, allowing the artists to go bonkers with a variety of outdoor environments in addition to a handful of familiar indoor ones.
You’ll speed your way through desert valleys and over sand dunes, roll through ditches in a constantly exploding war zone, and splash through puddles in sewage plants. There’s a great variety of environments to experience in Trials Evolution, and I can’t recall any moment where a level didn’t feel unique in its own right.
That in mind though, the graphics do feel a shred outdated, with some textures appearing a tad messy when the camera zooms in close.
Also, there’s an occasional issue where environments will slowly fade in at the start of a level, causing a small amount of texture pop-in on objects close to the camera. Thankfully though, they’re infrequent enough to avoid truly harming the experience.
Sound design is solid as well. The revving of your motorcycle is incredibly authentic, and the cartoony snapping of bones upon taking a hard fall is humorously cringe-worthy. Environmental sound effects are exaggerated to a point of silliness, with piles of rolling logs bouncing and banging down the hill beside you. There’s a tinge of humor to the sounds in Evolution, and it adds to the overall quirky style.
With dozens upon dozens of tracks to complete by yourself or with friends both on the couch and online, skill games to break up the traditional track racing and obstacle coursing, and an insanely in-depth, user friendly track creator that should extend the life of the game and the Trials community immensely, the game is a rock solid purchase for the price.
Trials Evolution is fun–addictive, competitive, and zany fun.
9 / 10