When Trials HD came out on Xbox Live in 2009, I spent many frustrating but rewarding hours behind my Xbox. I loved that game and enjoyed it more than most full size Xbox games. It had been a while since I played when I recently learned that a new version of Trials had been released. Despite being immediately anxious, I decided to give it a try and find out if it is a worthy successor. Spoiler: It is.
The goal of the game is pretty straightforward: Get from start to finish as fast as possible with as few faults as possible. The game has 3D graphics but is played as a 2D platformer, meaning you can only go forwards and backwards. The challenge is in the balancing of the bike and skillfully accelerating and using the brakes to get past all the obstacles on the course. Passing the course gets you the bronze medal, and for silver and gold you need to finish under a certain time with less than X faults. After a fault you can either start over completely or from the last checkpoint.
You unlock higher difficulty events by earning certain amounts of medals. This system works great because it means you don’t have to perfectly complete every single race to progress, but instead you can just earn an extra silver or gold medal on a different race to compensate and move up anyway. This keeps the game fun for the casual player, but if you’re a perfectionist, you can of course try to get the gold for every race.
There is a lot of variety in the different tracks, especially compared to Trials HD, which had all the tracks set in a warehouse. This time we get both indoor stuff and a wide variety of outdoor settings, ranging from industrial sites to mountains and farmlands. This is definitely the most noticeable upgrade from the previous game.
One of the most important considerations for me in a trial and error game like this is how fast I can get back into the game when I mess up. There’s nothing I hate more when I’m playing a (fast-paced) game than having to sit through a loading period after I fail, before I can try again. Luckily there is none of that in this game. If you mess up you can just mash the retry or last checkpoint button and it immediately drops you back into the race.
Besides the regular single player events, there is lots of other stuff you can do in the game. One of my favorite features in Trials HD was the mini games, and I was happy to see Evolution has a whole new selection of them. They include balancing a boulder above your bike, seeing how far you can get without brakes and with full throttle, lots of fun stuff like that.
Like Trials HD, Trials Evolution includes an editor that allows you to build your own tracks. This time you get to choose between the Lite Editor, like the one found in Trials HD, and the Pro Editor, which gives you all the tools the developers themselves used while designing the levels. Pretty complicated, and not really my cup of tea, but if you’re good at that kind of thing I’m sure you can spend days creating all sorts of cool content, which you can then share with the world over Xbox Live. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there is also a (local and online) multi-player mode.
In contrast to all the variety and freedom of the track editor, the customization options for your character fall a bit short. As you earn more medals and progress through career mode, you earn cash you can use to customize your bike and rider. This sounds really cool and could have been a fun part of the game but I was pretty disappointed in the selection of customization options. Most of it was a bunch of generic helmets and vests for your rider and different color parts for your bike. It would have been fun if they had included the possibility to unlock some crazy outfits or fun additions to your bike. The bland stuff they had wasn’t really worth the time so I just ignored this feature altogether. I felt this was a missed opportunity in an otherwise neatly detailed game.
In conclusion I have to say that I can’t recommend this game enough! The skill progression system makes sure it can accommodate players of every skill level. Because of the short length of every round it is the perfect game to play when you have 20 minutes to spare, but you can also spend the entire weekend on it without getting bored. It can be insanely addictive and frustrating but it is oh so rewarding when you finally beat that time, or unlock that next event. I thought it was going to be unlikely for this game to top its predecessor, but I was happy to find out that it does. Check out Trials Evolution on Xbox Live Arcade.