Trials HD took XBOX Live by storm when it first came out in 2009. Though it did not have the name recognition of the games it launched with as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion, Trials HD won gamers over in a big way thanks to its wildly addictive gameplay. To this day, Trials HD still stands as the best-selling XBOX Live Arcade game of all-time. Where was I during all of this? Not playing Trials HD. After reading the impressions and hearing people talk about it on podcasts, the game really didn’t sound like my thing. In particular, everyone focused on the game’s soul-crushing difficulty, which did not sound appealing to me at all. Instead of getting in on the action, I took in the horror stories from the community as assurance that I was doing the right thing by abstaining.
Not too long ago, Trials Evolution came out and I was originally set to ignore it just like I did its predecessor. However, after some thought, I figured that I should at least give the demo a shot, as the series has cemented itself within the current gaming zeitgeist. Instead of coming away from the demo with just a point of view, I found a new video game love.
If you were like me and have never played a Trials game before, Trials Evolution essentially plays like a modern day Excitebike. Though the levels are rendered in three dimensions, you control your bike on a two dimensional plane while micro-managing your bike’s speed and angle through a crazy obstacle course. While Trials Evolution is a game that rewards fast times, the strategy is not about cranking the gas as hard as you can. Maybe more than in any other racing game I’ve played, it requires you to have precise control of your bike through every obstacle.
It’s this emphasis on control that makes this an incredible experience. Every track is designed in a way where you must constantly manage your bike’s speed, angle, trajectory and landing in order to get through its myriad of obstacles. While you can fumble through some of the game by cranking on the gas, your scores will suffer and you’ll ultimately get to a point where this strategy will make it physically impossible for you to beat the later courses. Instead, the game is pushing you to learn the minutiae of every track and to have zen-like control of your bike at every turn.
Learning how to become one with your bike and the courses is a really fun process. The physics of the bikes and of the world are finely tuned and are consistent throughout, which makes it easier to get a feel for your bike and the obstacles at hand. You may screw up the same ramp a dozen times, but because of how exact the physics are, you’ll recognize that the mistake was yours, how you made that mistake, and what you need to do to fix it next time. If you put in enough time and effort to get better, you will get better and the end result will be awesome.
If you’re a completionist or perfectionist, this game rewards you handsomely for mastering a track. Oftentimes, I would stumble through a course once, then repeatedly play that same course over until I was able to pull a gold medal run. Once I hit that, the feeling was euphoric. Adding to the desire for the perfect run is the implementation of your friends’ ‘ghosts’. Your friends best runs appear as dots and they served as great motivation for me to do better.
On the other side of the token, the game’s emphasis on control can be infuriating. Odds are, you will crash dozens of times on your first attempt to clear a course and will likely screw up hundreds of times as you try and perfect your run. Due to the way the game was built, everything is trial and error (no pun intended). Though the excellent restart system makes screw-ups a lot more bearable, the nature of the experience can really wear you down if the action doesn’t genuinely excite you. Even if you enjoy love the game through the easy and medium tracks, the game will really test your patience on the hard levels. For me, the trial and error is part of the fun, but I recognize my limits. Striving for top honours in every track sounds like an exercise in masochism, so I define what success means to me and aim for that. This isn’t really a problem with the game, but it can be an issue if you’re not interested enough in the gameplay.
Once you’ve mastered (or given up on) on the single player mode, there’s still more fun to be had. The addition of a track editor opens up the door for a ton of new possibilities if you’re the type of person that likes to build levels. If you’re not, you can download tons of user-created levels, which are neatly sorted and categorized for your downloading pleasure. If you’re looking to share this experience with a friend or three, the game supports local and online multiplayer, which works really well and is a lot of fun.
Despite my negative pre-conceived notions, Trials Evolution won me over in a huge way. I’ve had a blast playing this game and I’ll likely continue having fun with this one for months to come. Though the difficulty and the trial and error nature of the game may turn off some, I think it would be a shame if you didn’t at least try the free demo. I can’t recommend this one enough.