Sequel with a change of direction
Trials HD was, and probably still is one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade. Not only is it my most played game on the platform, but it also broke every sales record there is on XBLA. People loved Trials HD and that love was further cemented with two satisfying DLC packs. But even those were not enough for some. Come Trials Evolution...
By the point Trials Evolution arrived I was entirely done with Trials HD. Each track and skill game was done to my absolute best and by the numbers I was largely okay with where I was at on the leaderboards and medal counts. I pretty safely assumed I was a better Trials player than the majority and I was right.
After four hours of Trials Evolution I had received the Trials Trophy, an arbitrary landmark awarded to the player after accumulating 135 medals. Seeing the way other players seem to think of that as something covetous I realized that Trials Evolution is either a much easier game than it's predecessor or I have simply sunk a stupid amount of time into Trials HD. Mind you, there's still challenge in this game for the veterans. The extreme tracks for example offer ample amounts of fury to players like me. But there's too little of that content.
There's also some problems I have with the physics in this game. Something seems to have changed with how landing works. Too often after a huge jump my bike seems to lose all velocity after touching the ground with two wheels. That might be there to teach the player of proper landing - using your rear wheel to take in all that stress. It might also be there because that engine just isn't made to handle all those huge jumps and rural track layouts. Trials HD was mostly about straight lines, strict curves and accentuated ramps. Trials Evolution uses a lot more nature in it's tracks which of course results in racing over some strange shapes and accommodating your racing style to something entirely new, even if more random.
Trials' signature gameplay is intact. When you fault, which you will, you can instantly restart the race or go back to the last checkpoint with a single button press. There is no infuriating delay and that is great because it's the only way a game like this can work. As Redlynx has done some ambitious stuff with the size of the environments and tracks in Trials Evolution it's great that they managed to keep all that snappyness the same. You still accelerate, brake and lean your rider left and right. The game also does a decent job teaching the player about more advanced techniques like bunnyhopping and crossing some of the harder obstacles.
The graphics are pretty much the same as in Trials HD, but instead of that dingy warehouse setting the player is thrown outside into a huge interconnected environment. You might not realize that when playing the game, but every track is laid out in some place of the huge world RedLynx has created for the custom track editor. Every track looks unique and it's honestly stunning to realize that when first venturing into the track creator. There are downsides however. Upon restarting a track while you're away from the starting line results in some ugly texture pop-in. It's something weird since there seems to be a lot of reused textures actually going on.
One of the sad things about Trials HD was it's track editor's fate. Sure, the editor itself was great and it resulted in great user tracks being created in that game, but the way they ended up being distributed was a nightmare. It got it's own dedicated community and if you wanted to get a track you saw on YouTube or where-ever you had to befriend it's creator on Xbox Live, download the track and unfriend the author in order to let more people get the track. This time that is gone thanks to the Track Central. Everyone can upload their tracks there, the best ones will ascend and some of the better ones will be under another categorization by the name of "Redlynx picks." Seeing how the track editor this time offers possibilities to create stuff from something akin to Marble Madness to shmups to even first person shooters. The editor is more LittleBigPlanet that Trials. With the huge and active community Trials has, the editor has already proven itself to becoming one of the weirdest wonderlands on the Xbox 360.
Redlynx has also added multiplayer to the game. Four players riding against each other's times. On supercross tracks every player is on a different lane and you can clearly see everyone. On trials events tracks from singleplayer are used and the other players are merely ghosts. While this may not sound like an overly exciting endeavor it actually is exciting to see someone crash right in front of you allowing you to take their position. Matchmaking works fairly well and there is a leveling system included which lets you know how much someone you're going up against has played the game online.
While I would have loved Trials Evolution to come with harder tracks and more challenge I am still not disappointed in what came out of it. Every Trials veteran will find something to like here, whether it be competing on leaderboards, creating stuff with the new and insane track editor or mastering every harder track in the game. While the multiplayer doesn't offer much in terms of longevity the singleplayer still absolutely will devour tens of hours of your time. Newcomers are going to have insane amounts of fun experiencing Trials for the first time. The 1200 Microsoft Points are absolutely worth spending and my minor gripes are not something that can ruin this huge game for anyone.