I’ve never played a game so unmistakably content with digging it’s own grave during the final act. Oh, this one’s personal. Not even the recent Sonic games have gone about orchestrating their own demise with such passion and fury. If it weren’t so detrimental it would almost be commendable. Actually it kind of is. Trials isn’t pandering to an audience, it just proudly basks in the knowledge it’s hard to get. Not just playing hard to get, real hard to get. A game of skill, and a little luck.
That’s speaking entirely from a personal standpoint. Those with a repeat option imprinted across their retina will have probably wandered into virtual nirvana and the game offers no apologies to anyone who fails to take into account the aptly chosen title before purchase. There’s a pretty clear-cut list of criteria required to take pleasure from Trials. Large quantities of tolerance, persistence and self-forgiveness, predominantly. But it’s the same story as the countless flash created Trial Bike games (same guys).
Although that isn’t especially true for the first three of the five events. The beginner and easy stages are refined, quicker and built with higher jumps and longer freefalls, they’re perfect for showboating. Flips, tricks and catapulting your bike across a track at near terminal velocity are as thrilling as any level from Pure and with only a two-dimensional playing field to play against (though all the levels are 3D in scope). They’re built around a slyly competitive notion drawn from sublime leaderboard integration. These opening levels are perfect to replay for bragging rights.
Much like Geometry Wars leaderboards are tied to the events page for anyone in your friends list to see. So besides a time to beat and a cap on checkpoints there’s the addition of friendly, subtly enforced rivalry. Even slicker, during events there is a bar at the top of the screen that shows where you rank compared to your friends in real time. It’s one of the game’s best afterthoughts.
The bike is controlled with the triggers with the R trigger assigned to accelerate, L brake. The thumbstick acts as a lean control for the biker himself, an absolutely necessary skill to have mastered before the hard or expert events.
Trials’ best feature, and one any developer creating challenge rooms or similar game modes should be forced to take note of, is the one touch restart. None of the hassle of opening the menu and scrolling to the retry option. Similarly a tap of the ‘B’ button reverts you to the previous checkpoint. It’s an inclusion that can’t be praised enough, one that should be standard amongst all games of a quick-fire, restart heavy nature and keeps Trials going as one almost seamless event.
On a technical level it’s an admirable port considering the advantages a mouse and keyboard combo offered a game of such arduous precision. Furthermore the HD suffix, despite being as much a lie as any number of other ‘[insert title] HD’ games, makes for lavishly rendered 3D environments with particular emphasis on the many explosions and comical ragdoll physics. Safe to assume then that a game revolving around preposterous tricks, high-speed and inventive horizontal and vertical courses has its fair share of pirouetting pilots shaving a path through the air toward bone-liquification (not at all a real word).
The main game is made up of five events, each with about eight courses to play though you’ll only need to pass a few to unlock the next. There’s a tournament mode but this only challenges you to complete three or more levels in a row without failing or exceeding an overarching time limit; a bit of a moot inclusion when all the events are available to play in the main game anyway but it adds an extra challenge to those four people capable of achieving platinum stars on the expert tracks.
But for anyone else good luck playing through the last two difficulties without an inner rage igniting. If thatgamecompany took pride in offering the path of least resistance with Flower, Redlynx can pride themselves on the contrary. Tracks here are long-winded, awkward and punctuated by frustrating physics-defying acts. Rather than the flowing and often arbitrary spirit of the opening tracks these are dictated and endorsed routes. It takes the wind out of the sails somewhat and the joys of only just making it through a course or combining flips and tricks into spectacularly lucky-cum-impressive performances quickly fade to vague memories. But that right there is the point, it’s just a matter of whether the masochistic tendencies required later in the game are something you’re willing to embrace. Success at the end is overwhelmingly satisfying and that’s precisely the point.
Trials is a game for the leaderboard-fetish crowd and it never pretends otherwise. The segregation between the bad, the competent and the skilled player is as subtle as a concrete horse on a racetrack. And whilst there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment derived from finishing the tougher levels, it’s only savoured until you start another challenge that has you repeating the same checkpoint fifty-eight times.
First impressions are devilish, the joys of bounding through a relatively flat and simple level, as seen in the demo, are later replaced by arduous masochism. If that’s your prerogative then Trials is going to suck the hours out of your days, and probably your nights as well.