Developer: Indigo Pearl / Publisher: Tate Interactive / Played On: PS3 [Also on: PS Vita] / Price: $15 / ESRB: Everyone 10+
Trials HD and Trials Evolution were two of the best-selling games on Xbox Live Arcade in the past few years, and for good reason. Their dirt bike racing style was fast, fun, customizable and immensely replayable. They shared one big caveat, though – Xbox 360 exclusivity. Unsurprisingly, a new challenger has approached in Urban Trial Freestyle, a PlayStation-exclusive itching to bring the side-scrolling, ramp-jumping and trick-pulling genre to the PlayStation 3, and mostly performs adequately on its own merits.
However, it fails to stand stronger than its competition, drawing inspiration almost entirely from the success of the well-designed Trials experience, but executing to a less effective degree. It’s not without its perks, but it may not be the “PlayStation Trials” folks have been clamoring for.
In Urban Trial Freestyle, you control a thug biker with a thirst for speed and adrenaline, whose only outlet for acquiring it is careening wildly through city streets, over rooftops, and through sewers while dodging obstacles, clearing gaps, and pulling off flips. Between record times, collectibles, and trick completion, your pursuit is that of a leaderboard rank and high star rating – from which Trials also derived its replayabilty. The more stars you earn (each level performance is scored out of five stars), the more levels you unlock. Unfortunately, the difficulty curve spikes around halfway, and earning stars for anything other than fast-time finishes becomes burdensome.
The gameplay is largely physics-based, but ultimately feels stiffer than Trials Evolution – much, much stiffer. Where flips in Trials could be achieved on nearly any jump, pulling one off here—where a massive gap or drop isn’t present—is near-impossible and will almost always result in a fault and loss of points. It’s not a matter of skill or challenge, it’s just frustratingly ponderous – especially for a game that begs you to pull off sweet stunts.
Other than that, the mechanics are unsurprisingly similar: controlling the lean of your biker along with proper acceleration and braking to clear ramps, gaps and minor physics puzzles. And though the game has five worlds to conquer (with six or so levels in each), over half of the levels are repeats of earlier ones. In fact, many of the in-game assets are shamelessly copy-pasted without remorse. Time and time again I found myself unlocking a new level only to realize that “Hey, I played this exact level ten minutes ago – what gives?”
Also, the game consistently throws physics-based objects in your path to trip you up — mostly cardboard boxes. It’s cool to see an on-screen character trip and spill boxes in your path, but when it happens every other level, all it comes down to is a frustrating annoyance.
The game also includes a handful of mini-games… all very reminiscent of Trials. While some of them provide a fleeting few minutes of fun, none of them possess the replayability of their Trials counterparts. They’re sometimes glitchy, not as polished, and ultimately feel tacked on. More content is great, but more great content would make for a more compelling experience.
Graphically, the game adopts a gritty and dirty style that lacks much color variety—except the occasional outer-city level that’s riddled with fun, scripted sequences like car wrecks, train car derails, and inner-city fistfights between civilians. In fact, Urban Trials does a lot with its background, in that it always has minor, passive events going on for you to peer at as you whiz by. These little moments of humor add some visual spice to the game; which is great because the low-quality textures create a dry visual experience otherwise.
There’s biker and vehicle customization in the game, and a fair amount of it. With outfits, accessories, and bike upgrades to attain, enough reason exists to go out of your way to nab cash in-game and increase your star count.
If you’re looking for Trials on the PlayStation, this might scratch the itch for a while. However, if you have access to a 360, this won’t likely make you switch from the Trials phenomenon. If you’re locked into a relationship with your PlayStation 3, then snag the demo of Urban Trial Freestyle and see if it’s for you.