Trials HD is tough, but also extremely rewarding and fun
Trials HD Review
You may be familiar with the Trials franchise. It has you take control of a rider and his bike, and guide them through a series of 2.5D obstacle courses. With Trials HD, the series makes its first appearance on the XBLA marketplace, and it does so with great success. Trials HD jumps from being very easy to ridiculously hard over the course of just a few levels, and as such, it may chase away some players with its punishing difficulty, but if you're the type of gamer who likes a challenge, you'll probably love this undeniably excellent game.
The main attraction here is a series of levels, dispersed between five difficulty levels. The first two levels, Beginner and Easy, are pretty mellow rides that allow you to mess around with the potential for crazy flips and wallrides without ever really having to halt for a slightly complicated death trap. These traps are legion, however, when you start hitting the back end of the Normal difficulty level and moving on to Hard and Expert. Trials HD boasts excellent physics, and the traps and jumps that you overcome basically become complicated puzzles that require complete mastery of the game's mechanics, like knowing how to ride up sheer walls (and you tend not to be able to hit those ramps running) and feeling when to tilt your bike back and forward to cling to ledges and work your way up them.
The controls are excellent, and the obstacles works of beauty, but when you jump from the Easy to Normal difficulty, the game suddenly decides to bring the pain. You get short tutorials at the start of each difficulty that slightly eases you into the new techniques you need to understand in order to make it past. However, it isn't enough. While going through the Hard levels, there were about 5 traps that drove me crazy for a while. Then, all of a sudden, it'd just click with me and I'd fly through the entire level in one fell swoop. Those moments justified all the teeth-gritting I'd had to do trying to perfect the jump. As always, difficulty is a double-edged blade: frustrating, but oh so satisfying when you overcome it. Trials HD is tough, but extremely fair, and it rewards your perseverance with a great sense of accomplishment.
However, there's more content in here. Trials HD also features 9 “Skill Games”. These are mini-games or sorts, that range from staying inside a rolling hamsterball for as long as you can, to dragging a cart of torpedoes as far as possible within a minute, all the while trying to avoid having them blow up in your face. These games are pretty fun in their own right, and make this package that much more attractive. If you feel like getting creative, you can also create your own tracks with a track editor. It's quite expansive, and some people have made very impressive stuff, but I personally found that the editor could've been a bit more user-friendly. You can do just about anything with it, but it seems like you need to get to grips with the somewhat disjointed interface in order to create exactly what you want. You can share these maps and download others, but only from people on your friendslist, greatly hindering the potential of this mode. If you want to get those fantastic maps off of their creators, you'll have to go through the hassle of contacting them and sending them friend's requests. A bit of a drag, and something that could have been handled way better by Redlynx.
Finally, the game has dynamic leaderboards. As you're riding from one end of the track to the other, you can see your friends' gamertags slide past, indicating how your speed compares to theirs. In the skill games, their records are also indicated, giving you a nice objective to go for. I lament the lack of true ghosts, but this feature is pretty cool too.
Trials HD looks pretty good. The riders have great ragdoll on them, which makes some of the crashes completely awesome and hilarious. The textures are also quite good, and the game has a great sense of speed, when you get going, at least. The music is pretty forgettable, however. The presentation is definitely up to par.
Trials HD can be frustrating, but never for the wrong reasons. It's an extremely well-crafted game, and is just bags of fun. It currently goes for 1200 points on the Marketplace, but I feel it's more than worth that. Buy it, and stick with it. Once you get a feel for the bikes and overcome the later levels, you will be happy to have picked it up. I can recommend it to anyone. So go buy it.
DLC Add-on: Big Pack ReviewTrials HD , the commercial version of the popular motorcycle platformer was one of the best—and, on the higher difficulties, hardest—downloadable games of 2009. It is still a rather rare occurance for a downloadable title to receive downloadable add-ons, but Trials HD was deemed adequately popular to produce some more levels for by developer RedLynx Ltd. The “Big Pack” is the first of these DLC packs, and it features quite a few new tracks, as well as some extra skill games and new objects for the level editor.
The new tracks are obviously the most important addition. The original game already ha d quite a few great tracks that were challenging and fun to play, but the Big Pack is definitely worth the money as well. There are a lot of great new tracks in here that appeal less to the masochistic enjoyment gamers derive from playing games that are really difficult, and more to the part of their brain that loves hitting big-ass ramps and sending dudes flying. While none of the new tracks get filed under the lowest two difficulty settings, they wouldn't feel out of place there, choosing to forego technically complicated obstacles in favour of courses that ought to go rather smoothly if you have any experience with this style of motorcycle manoeuvring. It's something that the harder levels of the game missed, and for that reason alone, Big Pack is well worth owning.
There are new skill games (and some new tournaments) as well, though they pretty much entirely consist of slightly novel interpretations of the skill games that were already in there, so this piece of DLC definitely does not deliver on that front. If you enjoyed playing through Inferno II, however (the final Extreme difficulty track in Trials HD), Big Pack has two new courses with certain jumps that I hated (loved?) more than any obstacle I've come across in the main game, for what it's worth.
For the low price of 400 Microsoft Points, the Big Pack can be yours, and I feel it is definitely worth that. If you really love Trials HD like I do, it's definitely worth it. The new skill games aren't anything to write home about, but the new tracks are cool, and they feature some great ideas, both in terms of level design and in terms of aesthetics.