When the Trials series first surfaced on XBLA, I felt relatively indifferent. Even with all its critical acclaim, knowing the type of game it was turned me off. I have never been a big fan of racing games in general and as I’ve stated previously, I’m not prone to chasing names on leaderboards, playing the same stages over and over again.
However, after a good deal of time with Urban Trial Freestyle for the 3DS, I can see the appeal of the series even if it still isn’t necessary to my tastes.
Those looking for a rich, engrossing storyline with multifaceted characters need to keep looking, because this is not the game they’re searching for.
There is no storyline and no set up of any sort to this title. There is the rider, the bike and the course. That’s it. No motive is provided outside of the proverbial “why not?” and it’s all the better for it.
When I think of all the pointless cut scenes I had to sit through in some of the latter Tony Hawk games where they are setting the scene, the lack of such trite becomes readily apparent as the blessing that it is.
To those unfamiliar with the Trials series of games and worried that it might be difficult to jump into, cast those fears aside. The simple three button control scheme is broken into acceleration, brake and reverse. Even though I had never even touched a Trials game before, I was able to finish the first dozen or so stages without issue and when I failed, it was immediately obvious what I had done wrong. At that point, I would restart at a previous checkpoint with minimum delay and could correct myself to overcome the obstacle in question.
In one particular situation, I was riding into a wall with nowhere to go and then a large box would fall on my head. I noticed that directly below was actually a long balanced plank of wood and I knew then that I had to stop before I hit the wall and let the box launch me using the plank of wood to a platform above. There was no little tutorial that popped up to tell me what I needed to do nor did I need to bang my head against the wall trying seemingly random things to arrive at the correct conclusion. I simply looked at my surroundings, saw what happened and knew what to do. At that point it was a matter of execution and nothing more. To me, that’s an instance of good level design.
On the side of the actual physics found in the title, it does take a bit of time to become familiar with its quirks. One would imagine that holding down the accelerator would simply make them go faster but in Trials, that’s just a surefire way to introduce the back of one’s skull to the pavement.
The accelerator has the tendency to lift the front of the bike and while that makes sense in reality due to the how torque is applied on the tires, it seems foreign at the same time because balance must be applied using the analog stick as a secondary while in real life, it would just be done by my own body weight. It’s a minor complaint about the overall feel of the controls more than anything else but it was rather jarring and took a bit of time to get used to all the same.
Most of the early stages won’t require the player to even use the brake or reverse to finish the course but later on, the obstacles become devilishly difficult, forcing the player to make use of all the tools at their disposal. Failure will become common, but due to how quick it is to get right back into the action, I found myself trying an obstacle more than twenty times without becoming too frustrated. There is a strong, “one more” feel to the game and once in full swing, it was difficult to stop. Still, if I were doing the same thing for the twenty stages the title offers, I would’ve gotten bored but luckily the game provides a bit of variety in several forms.
First of all, every stage can be played either in timed or stunt mode, with different objectives for both. It’s possible to score out of a total of five stars and after performing well enough in several stages, bonus challenge missions were unlocked. The extra stages brought a different flavor to the experience and asked me to perform some rather outlandish stunts or make it through a section holding certain handicaps.
There is also a track creation mode where assets are given to the player to build their own course straight from the pits of Hades that only the most hardcore of Trials fans could hope to finish. Unfortunately, there was no option to share the created stages online with others and no way to download those that were made by others. It’s a bit of an odd decision as allowing the download/sharing of custom tracks would’ve gone above and beyond to increase the longevity of the game. Fortunately, there is still the inclusion of leader boards, which show up in the actual stages as billboards but oddly, I was unable to get them to work with my copy of the game. There was also an option to add ghosts of other players to the track so I could compete with them on the fly but I was unable to track down someone on my friend list with the title to test out this function with.
Lastly, one could unlock/buy new clothes for the rider or even brand new bikes that can be fitted with custom parts, but don’t expect to fine-tune the shocks on the bike as the customization is barebones are best.
While I’m still not completely sold on the Trials games after playing their handheld entry, it’s easy to see why people are so fond of the series.
It’s simple but deceptively deep and addictive. It’s not the definitive title in the series that will turn naysayers into fans, but at a modest $6.99, it’s a good distraction to have on the go.
Fun Tidbit: Try and wheelie through an entire stage without ever letting the front tire touch the ground!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.