Trials Evolution Review

by

Trials and tribulations…

Trials Evolution is the followup to the Xbox LIVE Arcade hit Trials HD, and the first of four major titles in Microsoft’s ‘Arcade Next’. Its prequel, Trials HD is one of the best selling Xbox Live Arcade games of all time, having sold around 2 million copies since its release in the 2009 Summer of Arcade. This success derives primarily from HD’s precise and polished gameplay which, in the main, requires players to race over increasingly difficult obstacle courses. It’s viciously difficult and more than a bit crazy, but startlingly addictive; boiled down to its essentials, Trials HD is a superb time attack game that can rival the very best.

Almost three years later Trials Evolution by Finnish developer RedLynx, recently acquired by Ubisoft, has arrived. With Evolution they have found an appropriate name. There are no major alterations to the popular core gameplay mechanics here – RedLynx have wisely chosen to not tinker much with what made Trials HD so popular, but they have made considerable improvements and additions everywhere else. Lots of new content, vastly improved customisation, not one but two level editors, centralised track sharing, and both local and online multiplayer mean that Evolution is a much, much bigger game than HD.

Game: Trials Evolution
Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on:

The evolution here is best summed up by the change of locale. All of Trials HD’s gameplay took place in a warehouse, albeit a warehouse that RedLynx got a lot out of with plenty of tricks. Trials Evolution, on the other hand, is based in a huge outdoors environment where the sky is quite literally the limit.

What’s really incredible though, is that all the content in Trials Evolution has been designed in the same editor that has been provided with the game. Add that to a comprehensive online track sharing facility, and Trials Evolution goes where not only no Xbox LIVE Arcade game has gone before, but where no Xbox 360 game as gone before either.

SINGLE PLAYER

Evolution’s single player offering has changed plenty itself. In attempting to soften the difficulty curve that many found stifling in Trials HD, the single player is now separated into 7 sets of tracks called Events. Progression between events is restricted by medal count requirements and passing license tests which together help to ensure that players will be able to cope with the forthcoming tracks.

The license tests are what was missing from Trials HD – the first acts as a basic tutorial for controls, and the remaining three teach the variety of techniques necessary to pass later levels. Ideally, this should remove some of the trial and error when starting off on the harder levels, which should mean that enjoying the harder levels requires significantly less persistence.

Trials Evolution still holds extreme difficulty in its depths, but, the game now does a lot better job of encouraging players to persist. More than with almost any game, Trials is a game where practice really pays off. It’s still a controller-throwingly frustrating experience, but that frustration is only ever caused by ones lack of ability rather than any failure of the game. For the patient customer, Trials Evolution will pay dividends of satisfaction.

The difficulty curve is considerably smoother, and the hardest track from one difficulty is usually pretty similar to the easiest of the next. Still, Evolution’s hardest tracks in the ‘Extreme’ difficulty are probably more difficult than their counterparts in HD – there is plenty of content for anyone of any skill level.

There’s a lot of replayability to these tracks. There are four medals to get which impose fault and time limits, there is a special satisfaction to finishing a level faultlessly, and then there is leaderboard competition between friends and globally. Passing a level is one thing, but perfecting the flow between each obstacle can take a long time for even the best riders.

There are nearly sixty single player tracks included, significantly more generous than the 35 that Trials HD shipped with, and these are spread over five difficulty levels. The easiest tracks, termed ‘Beginner’ difficulty require little more than leaning to pass, but the hardest ‘Extreme’ tracks will test almost any gamer to their limits.

I won’t spoil the surprises too much, but rest assured that Evolution’s tracks are something really special. There is an increased emphasis on dynamism, and RedLynx are getting a lot more out of the physics engine this time around. Waterborne crates sinking as you land on them, explosions reveal extra pathways, a moving loop-the-loop, and gigantic morning stars swinging across the track to crush you are just a few example obstacles.

One particular track sees gravity bending around you Inception style, in one of many tracks that pay homage to pop culture, and gaming. Events are heavily and variously themed, including a lighting puncutated trudge through a dank swamp, a creepy black-and-white inspired Limbo level, and a vertigo-inducing sprint on a track created 500 feet above the ground. Trials Evolution is more than occasionally beautiful, aided greatly by the enormous draw distance.

There are five bikes to use, though once you’ve unlocked the Scorpion (which has the highest top speed) and the Phoenix (which is the most maneuvreable), you’re not likely to return to the first two. A fifth bike rewarded to owners of Trials HD, the tiny Micro Donkey from HD, is a particularly tricky challenge as it’s not really appropriately sized for the rider.

The Bike physics are mostly recognisable from Trials HD, though veterans will notice minor differences. It’s not so much a case of better or worse, but it is pleasing to have something a little different to learn. The only other major difference to the gameplay is that the rider is a little less tough when it comes to falling. The lightest touch to the head means a fault, which prevents some of the cheesier tactics and saves that could be performed in HD.

There’s a lot more ability to customise your bike and rider, with items to buy, unlock and colour individually. Pretty much everything you do in the game wins you money, and if there is any criticism it’s that you win money too quickly relative to the prices of the items, meaning most will have everything they’ll ever want within days, and a pointless accumulation of dollars to watch rise.

If you want a break from trials tracks, there are also 10 skill games to play with. They’re a bit of a mixed bag, there is one which challenges you to go as far as you can with limited fuel, and another which gives you a stuck throttle but no brakes. On the more random side of things, there’s one where you have to flap your arms to fly, and one where you have to hover around in a UFO. There’s also a clever homage to ‘Splosion Man, which has you blowing your rider around the level to get as far as you can.

They’re a pleasurable distraction from the main events, and a good alternative when you’re struggling to make headway on a track. Finally in the Single Player, there are Tournaments which challenge you to take on multiple tracks back to back, again with medals up for grabs should you beat the time and fault targets, and naturally success here is ultimate challenge Trials Evolution has to offer.

MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer makes its debut for Trials in Evolution. Three game types are on offer: ‘Trials’ allows ghost races for up to four players on any Beginner, Easy, or Medium track from the single player, and, ‘Hardcore Trials’ is the same but for Hard and Extreme difficulty tracks

Online there are the ‘Trials’ and ‘Hardcore Trials’ modes which allows up to four players to race against each other as ghosts on any of the tracks from the Single Player, and also the ‘Supercross’ mode which offers side-by-side action and can be played on or offline.

In Trials and Hardcore Trials, it’s the fastest to finish over 2 or 3 levels, and your opponents are shown as faint ghosts. It’s quite different to the normal experience as speed is prioritised above minimising faults, so there are a lot of stupid errors in the race to the line.

Supercross has a dedicated stable of 15 tracks, which tend to be fast and flowing affairs matching up to the easier Single Player tracks, and this makes for tense action even amongst competitors with ranging skill levels.

Each track is split into four identical lanes (Supercross tracks are considerably wider than normal tracks), one of which you are randomly allocated to. A Supercross tournament is run across multiple tracks (and optionally, multiple heats), and points are awarded for position (10 for first, 9 for second, etc.), and you also lose a point for each fault.

Players can pick between the bikes which adds a layer of strategy, and the Micro Donkey can be used to handicap highly experienced gamers. An option to allow bail out finishes is present, which adds more excitement to already tense races, allowing you to launch yourself towards the line as soon as you think you’re close enough. It’s a smart risk versus reward mechanic which ensures a loud climax to each race.

Offline, all players are presented on one screen. The camera will only stretch so far for trailing riders) and leaving the screen constitutes a fault. When you fault, you are then spawned with the slowest surviving rider as he passes the checkpoint, keeping the action artificially close but remaining fair.

You can occasionally find your view obscured by a rider in the nearer lanes, and it’s somewhat hard to understand why you aren’t always shown in the nearest lane for online play, but otherwise it’s a breath of fresh air which provides a party-fun that works particularly well for local multiplayer.

Trials Evolution’s matchmaking and netcode is satisfactory. It’s been easy to find games pretty swiftly most of the time, though it’s a little too common to see opponents lagging quite a bit. It doesn’t really affect gameplay but it can give you a slightly false impression of your position in the race.

More problematically, there have been some teething issues with the multiplayer leaderboards, as sometimes results aren’t posted properly, and I have experienced a total crash of the Xbox 360 when playing. So far, RedLynx have responded encouragingly to these problems and I think it’s fair to have some confidence that they’ll be fixed.

The asynchronous multiplayer function returns too, with you and your friends’ personal bests indicated by (optional) floating dots so that you can race against them even when they aren’t around.

TRACK CENTRAL

Trials Evolution comes packed with not one, but two level editors: the Lite editor, designed for accessibility, and the Pro editor, which is more complex, more powerful, and is the tool that all the content in the game was produced with.

The editors have both been designed with user-friendliness in mind, but even so, creating a great track will be a daunting task for most. Fortunately, RedLynx are posting a large number of videos on their YouTube channel which explain how to use the editors from the basics to the complexities of triggers, events, filters, and data sources.

The potential here is tremendous – the editor is  far more than just a track builder. You can build normal Trials tracks, and Supercross tracks, but also skill games which can be pretty much anything. Hints of this potential from RedLynx extend to multiplayer table football, top down racers, arcade style shooters and even a very basic FPS, though multiplayer skill games do not work online.

Once a level is finished, it can then be uploaded to Track Central and downloaded by others. Various menu options and filters have been created to make finding tracks easy. You can search by name, find your friends’ tracks, see lists based on rating or upload date, and RedLynx has the ability to feature their favourites too.

The rating algorithm could do with being a weighted average rather than a simple average, as the volatile ratings of new tracks can supress better, older tracks. Even so, Track Central is already filling with some great content amongst plenty of not-so-great content. It’s difficult to know what will be available in a month’s time, but I can’t help being excited about it.

By unleashing Trials’ fans creativity, RedLynx has ensured that Evolution will be a game with theoretically endless content. The mind boggles with the potential here, given what RedLynx have already created and given how inventive a community of what will undoubtedly be millions of people can be.

Even with Trials HD’s relatively inferior and considerably less powerful track editor, some of the creations were absolutely incredible, very often out-inventing RedLynx in their scope. Some of these tracks were featured in the second DLC pack, but thousands of brilliant creations were only experienced by the few thanks to HD’s lacking sharing facility. That huge pity will not recur with Evolution.

Each event has its own online leaderboard, and they can be used in local multiplayer and private online multiplayer too. Trials Evolution comes with plenty of content to begin with, but thanks to Track Central you will never yearn for more.

VERDICT

The Xbox 360 finally has a game which utilises user-created-content similarly to the PlayStation’s LittleBigPlanet, and that ambition alone is worth huge praise.

RedLynx have gone to considerable effort to improve the accessibility of the game. Trials neophytes will find a game with a much softened difficulty curve, but also one which rewards perseverence like every game should but a decreasing number actually do.

It is perhaps to be expected that a game of this size that there have been some issues and bugs, particularly with the leaderboards, no doubt partially caused by the record-breaking sales. One has to hope that RedLynx, Ubisoft and Microsoft can work together to solve these issues as swiftly as possible.

There are a few other areas due criticism too – the curved driving line can detract a bit from otherwise convincing (but extreme) physics, the skill games provided with the game are somewhat hit and miss, the Track Central rating algorithm isn’t ideal, and the currency/customisation options are a little threadbare – but these are fairly minor scars on a very impressive game.

In most ways, Trials Evolution is a shining example of how to make a sequel. Every returning feature has seen considerable upgrades, and with the major additions of multiplayer and Track Central, there can be no doubt whether this is worth a purchase for those who owned the first game.

The Xbox LIVE Arcade has been a platform for some incredible games over the last few years. It may have started as a platform for remakes of ancient games, but it has since fostered some of the most innovative and ingenious titles this generation thanks to the ambition of developers working on this small but powerful platform. Trials Evolution is the latest game to push the platform forward. At 1200 Microsoft Points ( £10/$15), this is an easy recommendation.

9.5/10

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments