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Trials Evolution Review

Game

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Dave Shaw

RedLynx creates a sequel to its insanely-popular XBLA bike game, but are the improvements worth it? Find out in our Trials Evolution review.

Trials-013.jpg

Published on Apr 17, 2012

Sports titles aside, it’s not often that the greatest threat to a videogame’s success is the ongoing profitability of its predecessor, but that’s exactly the factor Trials Evolution will have to overcome.

Selling well beyond two million units in total, RedLynx’s initial XBLA offering continues to feature prominently within both the service’s weekly top ten lists, and those detailing total sales in each and every year since 2009.

Considering this again challenges players to ride a motorbike inch by inch over increasingly impossible terrain, what could RedLynx possibly offer in order to persuade gamers one world of obsessive-compulsive hurt should be swapped in favour of another?

Turns out, the answer is ‘quite a lot’, including the removal of the crippling difficulty spikes right from the start. 

Bearing in mind the original Trials’ punishing difficulty and resultant runaway success, the extent to which Evolution’s challenge has been neutered may well confuse, and could potentially dismay.

On a second-to-second basis, stages come positively littered with checkpoints, exchanging the original title’s litany of gameplay brick walls for a more manageable handful.

What’s more, where levels once relied on an interaction between player and physics routines alone, more fanciful, arcade influences have started to appear.

There's more variety, especially with the level creator.

An automated platform here, Motocross Maniacs-style loop-the-loops there. The result is a videogame that packs in verticality like a North American city (and with similarly considerable spectacle), yet perhaps loses an element of the purity that formerly made it so popular.

Some elements even topple into outright annoyance as, say, the jets of water that strike the player’s bike, causing it to topple in ways that could unjustly ruin that elusive perfect run.

Rare as such moments are, considering Trials’ formula already straddles joy and outrage as awkwardly as its rider straddles three-inch planks, they might have been better removed altogether. 

Taking a wider perspective, concern over the original title’s steep difficulty curve has also been soothed by simply expanding its repertoire.

Featuring a track roster around double the length of Trials HD’s, Evolution achieves transitions smooth enough to ease still-painful memories of attempting to leap over the same darn tyre.

So much so, veterans should find themselves able to clear its entire campaign without significant fault, the challenge this time coming as gold medals are mopped up and a selection of post-completion extras appear.

Clearly, this structure is preferable to one that locks really quite an appreciable percentage of the game away from those who can’t wheelie on a sixpence.

 

Whether tracks actually undulate more or the effect is generated by a farther view is a matter for debate.

 

Some, though, will use the mere dozen or so stages of truly rider-igniting difficulty as an excuse to lament how the industry has gone soft. It hasn’t – there are just a greater number of options on offer.

It’ll send thrilling shivers down the spines of some to discover Evolution’s much-lauded multiplayer options bring to mind the baked bean track walls of Codemasters’ Micro Machines.

Contested exclusively on a new class of track – motocross – these see up to four players duke it out simultaneously over a range of pitfalls and undulations.

Predictably, it offers knife-edge entertainment, focusing wisely on courses designed to throw players into the air after unwise acceleration, rather than traps to trip them up altogether.

Suffice to say, describing the atmosphere while four buzzing competitors seesaw in and out of view as tense would rate alongside such understatements as ‘Hideo Kojima likes dialogue’ and ‘Kinect doesn’t really enhance videogames’. A few issues are worthy of discussion, though.

First, the running order in which players appear on track appears to be decided essentially at random, meaning players furthest away from the camera will be ‘punished’ with an inferior view for no apparent reason.

While this is less of an issue in head-to-head competition, with a quartet of competitors in action you’ll be wishing for a last in, first out staggered start.

Water jets: the cause of many an unpredictable accident.

Second, like Codemasters’ classic title, players who fall will find their rider repositioned on track at the next checkpoint, ready to resume racing speed once others have caught up.

Though it’s admittedly difficult to suggest what other action could have been taken, it’s rather annoying to see a competitor fall, get reset then storm out into an unassailable lead, simply because your attempts to tackle the course ‘fairly’ have resulted in reduced relative levels of momentum. Multiply this feeling by a factor of a thousand if this occurs metres from the finish line, as it often does.

Helpfully, scoring sees players awarded a mark of ten by default, with points removed based on faults and finishing position. So there’s an extent to which this effect evens out, as per penalty claims over the course of a football season.

Like our apt analogy though, you can bet the fat of every injustice will be thoroughly chewed over by all involved. Heck, if the argument centres upon a particularly unjustly positioned checkpoint, you can always break out the tool kit and design a replacement.

In terms of scope alone, the tools are mightily impressive and reasonably flexible, far surpassing those provided last time around. The observant will likely already be aware that besides a practically infinite number of traditional Trials tracks, Ubisoft has been keen to trumpet its ability to produce a selection of wholly unrelated gameplay experiences.

Table football, various racers, top-down shooters, that kind of thing. Besides more outlandish offerings such as these, there’s the chance to formulate minigames based on Trials’ baseline gameplay features – balancing a sphere atop your bike perhaps, or jamming the accelerator on. Make no mistake, though – this is unlikely to constitute the 360’s answer to LittleBigPlanet. 

Besides avant-garde, gravity-bending stages ape Silent Hill and Limbo.

To begin with, despite its power, RedLynx’s edit suite proves difficult to get to grips with unless you’re tackling a standard racetrack. Though we’re sure some imaginative souls will find time to tinker, there’s no helpful symbiosis of purpose between single player play and level creation.

There’s simply a campaign, and a separate edit suite. What’s more, the objects and processes with which RedLynx furnish players seem to tunnel creativity into certain well-trodden areas.

Rather than creating fantastic worlds of your own imagination as Sony’s flagship title might permit, you’re instead hacking together Rube Goldberg contraptions from items of scenery that you’d largely expect to find in a dirt bike setting.

While the results are certainly impressive in their breadth and ingenuity, especially given its status as a lowly Arcade title, the chances of creating anything truly fun seem relatively remote.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong for this review to wander bravely into the night, cloaked in bitterness and negativity. Trials Evolution is a joyously entertaining videogame.

One touched slightly by a publisher’s desire for broader appeal, sure, but enjoyable all the same for both thrill seekers and those who’d happily apply a Newton meter to their joypad triggers in pursuit of a perfect score.

The spectrum of nuance RedLynx has once again teased from just two input buttons and an analogue stick has to be witnessed to be believed. After all, at the most basic level it turns leaping onto a single box into a piece of compelling entertainment.

Do stunt riders become bored of flaming rings? We expect so.

When in mid-flow though, each twitch of the accelerator, every degree your biker’s midriff contorts, every second spent scanning the turf ahead creates fresh parameters within which the following few seconds must be played.

Every comic pratfall comes via an instantly identifiable moment of player idiocy that can then be perfected over a course of minutes, hours, and inevitably days.

Trials Evolution remains the very definition of ‘one more go’ gaming – only this time embellished with the robust editing suite to ensure players never headbutt an identical square inch of turf.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
7.4 / 10
Sound
7.2 / 10
Gameplay
9.1 / 10
Longevity
7.5 / 10
Multiplayer
8.2 / 10
Overall
8.5 / 10
Final Verdict
Addictive to the point of disorder, Trials Evolution is another RedLynx success - only this time, one that will stay fresh as long as its servers stay open. Live Arcade developers hang fire – it’s going to be a tough few months.
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Game Details
Format:
Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date:
18/4/2012
Price:
1200 MS Points
Publisher:
Microsoft
Developer:
RedLynx
Genre:
Platform
No. of players:
1-4
Verdict
8.5 /10
Back to ruin your life all over again, Trials Evolution keeps the addiction level high while adds more tweaks and features.
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