Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Game Review: Trials Evolution

 One of XBLA's most popular series is back...

The Xbox Live Arcade network has been getting some pretty good titles these days. It's nice to see developers being able to come up with some really fantastic games that we don't need to wait yonks for, (though not in all cases- Fez, 5 years?!) and for a reasonable price that doesn't burn a hole in your wallet like the price of your standard retail disc. Of course, as with any games platform, there are still plenty of flops in the Xbox Live Arcade library, but I think the recent gems that have shone through the grime of half-assed productions and sea of paper thin Indie games is a sweet treasure to behold. If I were a pirate, as in a sea pirate, I'd tell you that X(BLA) marks the spot for some incredibly entertaining, original and modestly priced games!

One such game that sparkles brightly in the newest additions to the XBLA platform is Trials Evolution. If you ever played its predecessor, Trials HD, I can tell you Trials Evolution quite simply has everything great about that game and more. Much, much more! The premise, for those unfamiliar, is simple: You ride a motorcycle in a series of different maps and have to make your way from start to finish as quickly as possible in one piece. The physics engine is the most crucial element to this, as you find yourself carefully balancing and tweaking your rider's position in order to traverse the many objects that will be in your path. Starting off with something as simple as a set of barrels and escalating up to near-vertical ramps and jumps between platforms that Mario would have a difficult job handling. It's a hard game. Oh yes. In similar vein to Super Meat Boy, it'll take some real skill to get through some of the more difficult levels and will most likely have you cursing wildly and pulling your hair out, but it's so awesomely addictive that it'll have you coming back for more every time. And when you do win, it feels great.

The single player mode starts you off with a tutorial telling you the basics and shoves you off from there, giving plenty of unique and exciting maps for you to better your technique in, before bumping up the difficulty and giving you a few new tips on overcoming the more challenging levels. At these milestones in your career, you'll also unlock new bikes that will let you go faster and be more agile than before, allowing for fast and frantic action speeding through the levels and also the careful precision required to beat the wonderfully crafted areas. You can also use these new bikes to play with online against other riders and beat your times in previous levels. There a 4 medals for each level. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum, though the fourth is only an option when you complete most of the career. The better the medals you get, the quicker you can unlock new levels and experience grinding new joys and difficulties. The leaderboards are really a great part of the element that are brought up practically everywhere in the game, rather than just some option to look at off in the menus. Every level has the score board show your friend's best times, adding the element of competition that makes this game work so well.

Multiplayer is also rather good. Online, you can play supercross, trials or hardcore trials events with friends or strangers. Supercross is a racing mode that has up to four players on the screen at once in a frenetic battle to the chequered flag at the end. Trials is basically the single player mode, but still racing against other people, though it's just their ghosts. And hardcore trials is the same as the latter, though with the most difficult levels of the game playable. And they certainly are difficult. You can rank up in multiplayer also, but after you unlock Hardcore Trials, it's mostly just a number to represent your skill/time put into playing online.

Remember the golden days of building your own dream park in Tony Hawk's games? Well, Trials Evolution has its very own Track Editor. Though, when I say track editor, what I really mean is an absolutely mind blowing construction kit that lets you use the same tools as the developers to make your own levels. I haven't seen anything quite so advanced that's directly integrated in the game and allows for such incredible maps to be made except maybe the Elder Scrolls Development kits. It allows for anyone to try their hand at making some really great stuff, which has already been showcased online.

Track Central allows you to download other people's tracks made in the editor and try to get your own high score on it. Some of the maps we've seen on it already are pretty spectacular and we're still only a short time away from the game's release. It's even possible to make games that don't even have you doing trials at all. The developers themselves have shown how versatile the kit is by showing levels that mimic games such as Angry Birds or Marble Blast. There's even some first person scenarios where you have to find objects, or shoot targets.  The community has already caught onto making some really good trials and skill games along these lines and the results have been nothing short of fantastic so far. The editor adds a huge amount of longevity to the game, with new maps coming out every day. It's certainly a strong excuse in buying the game alone.

Trials Evolution is a fantastic game that, if you have the patience to play is absolutely worth playing. For the great addictive gameplay, the fun multiplayer and leaderboards competition and the stunning map editor and the hundreds of creations it has spawned. It's time to get some high scores.

- Andy Robison


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