Polished, addictive and packed full of content, XBLA perfection.
Trials Evolution is the perfect XBLA game, the result of seven years of refinement to the groundbreaking downloadable medium that is Live Arcade. It is not only one of the most polished titles on the service, but it's also a more complete package than many physical, £40 titles. I've still got at least another three or four paragraphs to go of this review and I'm already struggling to think of anything I don't like about this game. I'll give it my best try.
If you're familiar with XBLA, chances are you'll also be familiar with the Trials series. Trials HD came from nowhere to surprise everyone with it's unforgiving difficulty curve, leaderboard-driven addictiveness and solidly-designed physics based racing. Evolution really doesn't stray from the first game's formula drastically, but it wasn't a game that needed much change. The bikes handle exactly the same, and if you managed to complete Trials HD's hardest tracks you'll breeze through the first two-thirds barely stopping to catch breath.
The great thing about Trials is that the easy levels and the hard levels are equally fun in different ways. Easy levels still challenge experienced players to beat their best performances through constant comparisons to your friends' times, and hard levels require a level of technical skill that will leave many a casual gamer punching their armchairs in frustration. The difficulty curve is slightly reduced in Evolutions by an incremental series of tutorials that new players will be thankful for, but the levels themselves still offer enough of a challenge to keep veterans entertained throughout.
There's much more visual variety in Evolution than there was in the first game. Trials HD was mostly confined to dark and dingy warehouses, occasionally stopping off in a science lab or trials track, but this game stays out in the open. The tracks span a far wider distance both vertically and horizontally, and catapult you across gorgeous vistas, ruined castles and post-apocalyptic warzones. It's a very bright-looking game in comparison to it's predecessor, and nails a very distinctive art style.
There aren't many new additions to the series, but what has been added is largely worthwhile. The new multiplayer component is welcome, although I personally still have more fun racing my own personal bests than other people's virtual riders. A whole bunch of new skill games have been added, some great and some not so. Some of them seem to have been included in the game purely for bragging rights and to say "look what our level editor can do". Yes, RedLynx, it is great that you can create a Marble Blast Ultra clone in your level editor, but if I wanted to play that I'd boot up Marble Blast Ultra itself. No doubt some people will do some incredible things with the creator tool in the future, and if the community stays well-supported it'll have almost infinite longevity.
So whilst there isn't much actual evolution in Trials Evolution, the incremental upgrades that have been made hit all the right notes. It's worth the 1200 point cost and more, and I'll be playing it for a very long time. It's been a strong week for the Live Arcade. Along with Skullgirls and Fez, Trials completes a hattrick of well-made Marketplace releases, and long may the trend continue into the future.
Written by Ashley Chittock. Read more http://ashleychittock.blogspot.co.uk