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Trials HD Review4
by Brad Shoemaker on
Physics and sadism combine to great effect in this motocross action game on Xbox Live Arcade.
Trials HD has a fantastic concept that only a small minority of players will ever fully appreciate. It looks like an action game that revolves around a series of two-dimensional motocross obstacle courses, like Excitebike for the modern age. But when you get down to it, Trials is really an intensely technical physics puzzle that requires you to not just drive but feel every foot of each course to navigate all the hellishly tricky jumps and traps in each level. The game got a little too hard a little too quickly for my taste, but there's a lot of room for you to increase your skill here, and feel the reward that goes along with doing so.
Things you will need to enjoy Trials HD: an eye for detail; a good feel for two-wheeled driving mechanics; patience. A lot of patience. The game's levels are split into five difficulties, and by the time you get into the third one, you'll be spending most of your time inching along from one obstacle to the next, failing over and over until you figure out exactly how you need to pop up your front tire or exactly when you need to lean backwards just a bit to get the right momentum and angle to pass a given trick. Thankfully there's a checkpoint after every single trick, and you can restart at the touch of a button. Otherwise this game would be utterly unbearable.
The driving mechanics couldn't be much simpler. Accelerate with the right trigger, brake with the left, and lean forward and backward with the analog stick. The rest is up to gravity. You're going to be fighting gravity for much of the game, since so many of the later courses ask you to basically drive up sheer walls and perform other absurd feats of two-wheeled daring. As you make your way through a new course, you'll frequently pause and say "Really? You want me to do that?" But there's always a way to pull it off, even if you need to hit YouTube to figure out exactly what it is.
Trials HD is sadistically, controller-throwingly hard, but it's the kind of hard you will continuously (if slowly) get better at as you practice. I just wish the difficulty curve were a little smoother over the course of the five tiers. The first two aren't much trouble and you'll breeze through them quickly, but there doesn't feel like much middle ground here. The game goes from manageable to crazy hard in the space of just a few races. It's very possible you will never finish the last two or three courses in the game; they're just that hard. I wish the developer had crammed in a larger number of moderately challenging levels in the middle somewhere.
Powering through the main challenge courses was my primary occupation in Trials HD, but there's a decent assortment of skill-based minigames in here too. You do things like ride inside a giant hamster ball or run a course while towing a wagon full of bombs behind you. Most of them center around how far you can make it before you meet some kind of unfortunate demise, which is always good for a laugh.
Trials is especially fun if a lot of other people on your friends list have been playing it, since you can see their best times and how many times they crashed as they tried to finish a level. Leaderboards are nothing special, of course, but they're more effective here when you see that your friend racked up 300 failures as they tried to suffer through one of the meanest, hardest tracks. You can sort of feel their pain. It's also neat that you can see how fast one of your friends ran a given course relative to your own position in real time as you run it yourself. It's not quite as good as an actual ghost feature, but it's close.
You can make your own levels in Trials HD with a pretty easy-to-use, capable level editor if you want to extend the game's playability once you finish all the content that comes with the game (if you ever do). Though, perplexingly, you can only download levels from people on your friends list. That's a real shame, because I would have liked to see how inventive--and ludicrously hard--some of the top user-created levels might be. But there's no way to browse all of the ones that are out there.
More than likely, though, you'll get your money's worth out of what's already included in this package. Trials HD is geared toward a specific kind of game player, one who can put up with the repetition and attention to minute detail required to master its courses. If you're that sort of person, you'll find a lot of satisfying gameplay here.