doctorwelch's Trials Evolution (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

An improvement that builds upon an already great Trials HD

For those of you who played Trials HD, you will basically know what you are getting into in this sequel, but that’s not to say the game hasn’t changed at all. Trials Evolution features the same challenging, and often times frustrating, dirt bike obstacle course gameplay as the previous game, with added multiplayer and a larger variety in the locations and layouts of tracks to make for a more complete experience. Trials Evolution will keep you replaying tracks over and over to either just complete them, get a better ranking medal, or simply show up your friends by posting a better time than they did.

Trials Evolution could be described as a 2D precision platformer, like Super Meat Boy, except the platforming is with dirt bikes on insanely unrealistic obstacle courses. Even saying each track is an obstacle course is selling the game short because of the crazy loops, skyscraper high jumps, and sometimes weird physics and gravity alterations, as well as the motocross races in multiplayer. In any case, Trials Evolution is a challenging game that gives you complete control over weight shifting and throttle on a dirt bike, then gradually increases the difficulty of the courses you are supposed to compete by requiring more precise movement and extremely careful feathering of the throttle.

When a game sets challenges before you that are as complex and sometimes exhausting to play as Trials Evolutions does, the game needs to have responsive controls and gameplay that doesn't leave you feeling cheated. Trials Evolution does both of these things exceptionally. The controls are simple, the A button or Right Trigger controls the throttle (I prefer the Right Trigger because it allows for more precision with the amount of gas you are giving the bike), and the Left Stick controls the lean of the rider on the bike. This may seem simple, but the leaning and throttle allows for hopping and balancing of the bike in order to get through the tracks and over the obstacles the game puts before you.

Mastering the controls is essential for the harder courses, and learning how to do some of the more complex techniques like feathering (rapidly giving your bike only a small amount of gas in order to keep it steady on a steep incline) can take hours to master. I have been able to pass every single medium track with gold, and complete all the hard and expert tracks with at least a bronze without spending too much time on one track, but that’s only because I had the chance to practice on Trials HD before I jumped into this game. Fortunately, those who mastered and loved Trials HD will be glad to know their skills are still applicable here, and those of you who haven’t played a Trials game, or have and know how brutal the expert courses can be, are in for a time consuming, frustration inducing experience that might make you want to throw the controller through the TV.

That’s not to say the gameplay is bad at all. The movements are precise and the tracks are brilliantly designed. It takes immense concentration and skill to pass the harder tracks, but after each checkpoint there is a great sense of accomplishment on making it one step further. When you wreck or restart from a checkpoint (known as a fault), and believe me you will wreck hundreds of times while playing this game, it doesn’t feel like the game is cheating you. There were many sections on the extreme tracks that took me hundreds of tries to finally pass, and every time I failed I knew it was my fault. I knew that if I could just get the technique down perfectly, I would be able to make it through, and the sense of accomplishment and pride when I finally got through was unlike any other.

This brilliance in design doesn’t just fit with the harder tracks. Many of the earlier tracks make up for what they lack in complexity, with creativity and ridiculousness. There are creative touches to earlier tracks that give them a nice feel even if you find them easy. There is a track where gravity is constantly shifting as you progress, a track with a hand made of stone that tries to grab you, a track that uses water pipes as propulsion for your bike, and even a track set in the world of the game Limbo with its 2D shadowy art style. There are also ten different skill game tracks that include creative takes on the Trials gameplay. There are tracks having you do everything from only being able to use throttle or only being able to use rider lean, to skiing on dirt, bailing and flapping makeshift wings to see how far you can fly, and even piloting a UFO. These crazy skill games are some of the most unique, interesting, and sometimes fun tracks to play in the whole game.

(There is basically one exception to the rule of pride and accomplishment by excellent track design. One track that deals only in frustration. A track with the sole purpose of annoying you. That track is the Gigatrack, but I will let those of you who will play the game find what that one’s all about for yourselves.)

The game tasks you with getting through its sets of tracks ranging through beginner, easy, medium, hard, and expert, but before you can start playing in your first event, you are required to pass a license test. You are forced to pass a new license test before you can proceed to each of the new events because each event subsequent event contains a group of tracks ranked at a higher difficulty. For each of these higher difficulties, a new bike is unlocked with better stats to help you complete the next set of challenges. However, the license tests’ main purpose serve as the tutorials to help you through the next set of obstacles you will face in the higher difficulty, and although the earlier tutorials covering the basics are adequate, the later tutorials for hard and extreme tracks don’t give nearly enough help to those who don’t have a great grasp on the more advanced techniques required to complete some of the tracks.

What Trials Evolution lacks in tutorial, it makes up for with its multiplayer components. The ability to simply go to a leaderboard of any track and see how the top players complete it can be essential if you are stuck at any point in a track. and sometimes it’s just interesting to just go and see how much better people are at the game than you. The leaderboards also use Xbox Live friends lists as a way to get you going back to the game to beat your friends scores. Unfortunately I did not have too many friends playing Trials Evolution while I was, so I wasn’t able to get too competitive with beating scores of people I know, but I was still able to pit myself against others in the multiplayer mode.

The multiplayer basically takes single player tracks, and some multiplayer only tracks, and pits you against three other players in a series of races to see who comes out on top. After each race points are awarded to the players according to the position they finished, and points are deducted for the amount of faults each player made. At the end of the multiple races known as supercross, or multiple obstacle based trials, the player with the most points wins. The multiplayer is fun, but not nearly as fun when just playing with strangers. Most of the appeal, at least for myself, is to compete against people you know.

Really, the only completely bad part of Trials Evolution is its soundtrack. I often times found myself just turning down the volume on the TV and listening to something other than its repetitive and often annoying music. The music in the game just sounds like a complete mess that really just distracts from the experience. I really only heard it in the first few hours of the game, and from there I basically turned it off; it’s nothing a computer near your TV or an iPod can’t fix.

The only feature I haven't mention is the fully featured track creator. I am usually never the kind of person that spends any time trying to create my own map or level in a game, and Trials is no exception. I did go in the editor just to get the achievement and briefly check out the editing tools, and I can say they seem pretty fully featured. The variety of tracks you can build is fairly phenomenal. One of the top rated user created tracks online is actually a portal level that uses portals, companion cubes, and actually looks similar to a portal level. So even though I would never spend hours creating something super complex like that, if that is your cup of tea than Trials Evolution has your back.

Trials Evolution is an addicting game that really should be experienced, especially if your friends are playing it. And even if a lot of them aren’t, I can attest to the fun you can have from replaying the creative and masterfully designed tracks that Trials Evolution has to offer, as well as learning the skills necessary to beat the hardest tracks in the game and the satisfaction that comes with it.

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