Posted August 13th 2009 by Will Davey.
In the past, the Trials games and I had a bit of a love/hate relationship. I loved how simple and addictive the gameplay was - it had the uncanny ability to make me want "just one more go" when I'd repeatedly miss a jump. It was also fun to just completely ignore the course and see how many flips you could do off of various ramps, only to see your rider crash into the ground with delightful ragdoll physics. That said, I hated how difficult they got and how bad I was at more difficult levels. Fast-forward to 2009 and the Trials series is back, this time on the Xbox Live Arcade with Trials HD. I was really intrigued to see how far the game had come along since its flash game beginnings, so I loaded up the game and jumped right in.
If you haven't heard of the Trials games, then to be honest this is the best place to start. In Trials, you take control of a motorbike rider on a 2D plane, and your job is to get him to the end of an obstacle course without falling off your bike, as fast as possible. Throw in some physics-based obstacles, plenty of explosives and some giant ramps, and you've got yourself what can add up to be quite a challenging game.
Playing the game itself is incredibly fun. The earlier levels offer little challenge and allow you to get your bearings with the gameplay mechanics, but nothing beats going through a level perfectly. Hitting every transition inch-perfect and getting a little extra speed, making a difficult jump by the skin of your teeth, soaring through the air and doing a double backflip just because you can - they all make playing Trials HD a great experience. The best example of this is the first Medium level (not including the tutorial). It's essentially a giant collection of loops, huge ramps, insane speed, canyon-like jumps, and explosions everywhere. Playing through that level is a joy, and for me it's what Trials HD is all about.
There are plenty of features in the game, and whilst I could spent ages listing through all of them, that would take a bit too long, so here are the essentials. There are 39 different levels split into five different difficulties, starting from Beginner and working up to Extreme. The difficulty of the game overall is, for once, quite accurately described by each of the difficulty names. I had no problem with Beginner or Easy levels, Medium added a bit of challenge, Hard was genuinely quite challenging, and Extreme will probably end up with you making some Xbox 360 controller-shaped holes in your wall. You can get a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on how you did on each level. Once you complete your first Extreme level though, you unlock platinum medals for every level in the game - as if getting gold on the later levels wasn't hard enough.
After I'd finished three levels in Beginner I unlocked the Easy levels, and a new bike to use for those new levels as well. That's how you'll unlock all of the difficulties and each bike for each set of levels, though there isn't a new bike for Extreme. As well as unlocking difficulties and bikes, I was also unlocking new "Skill Games", which are essentially mini-game-style challenges. I'll be honest and say that I don't know whether these are rewarded for completing levels or getting a set amount of gold medals as I was getting gold on my first attempt. That said, I'd unlocked all of the twelve skill games once I'd finished the Medium levels, so that might be a vague indication of what's required to get them all. "Ring of Fire" was probably the best game of them all, possibly because it was so unexpected. You essentially get a giant boost of speed, your engine sets on fire, and you end up soaring through countless rings of fire in an attempt to keep your boost up. Flying through the air on a flaming motorcycle was not one of the things I thought I'd be doing in Trials HD, I'll give you that.
I'd also unlocked some tournaments, which you seem to unlock once you finish all of the levels in a particular difficulty, but also once you've finished some specific levels too. Tournaments are essentially just a select group of the standard levels directly after each other, and you have to perform your best. I felt this was a nice extra challenge as it tasks the player not only to perform as well as they can, but also to be as consistent as possible. The first tournament is three of the easiest levels, whereas the final tournament is 24 levels, the majority of which aren't particularly easy. There's also an achievement for completing the final tournament without any errors whatsoever, so good luck with that one.
The final piece of content in Trials HD is a level editor. That's right, developers RedLynx are letting you, the player, create your own dastardly course to challenge whoever wants to play your level - anyone on your friends list that is. Unfortunately you read that correctly, and it's true that you'll only be able to share levels with your friends. This is perhaps the single most disappointing thing about the whole game, and I feel it's a completely missed opportunity. With what could eventually be a huge online community, considering how robust and in-depth the level editor actually is, I fail to see any logic in restricting the player to only sharing with friends.
After being thoroughly disappointed with this revelation, I then tried to make my own level in the editor. It's quite a lot to take in at first, and you'll have to familiarise yourself with it for a while before you're making levels with ease, but the developers have done a good job of making the editor accessible to the average player. Whilst making a level you can switch between simple and advanced mode. Advanced contains everything in the simple mode, but it lets the player add more physics-based items, toggle more specific settings and, well, it's just more advanced.
The other online component to Trials HD is simply leaderboards, but there's a twist. You can view each player's replays on the leaderboards, so if you're stuck on a level or simply astounded by how some top-level players do stuff so well, watch their replay to see what they did. There are also little icons in the corner of the screen that show you when said player is accelerating, decelerating, and which direction they are leaning and when, which are great little details to have. It can be difficult to see what they're doing in the game and at the same time what buttons they're pressing, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.
The technical side of the game is very impressive. Controlling the rider is simple and the controls feel good - you never feel like you're fighting the controls, which I found to be a problem in the first Trials game. From the roaring engine to the slam of the rider into a giant piece of sheet metal, the sound effects are incredibly convincing. The levels take place in a warehouse too, so there's a faint echo from some of the louder sound effects, which is a nice touch. The graphics themselves are top-notch. Very effective lighting, smoke and flame effects add a nice feel to each level, high quality textures are abundant, and the animations of the rider are well done. As a fan of ragdoll physics, I spent more than a fair amount of time just bailing off of the bike and slamming the rider into whatever obstacle was in the way. In a bizarre way I found this to be quite therapeutic after playing some of the more frustrating levels, and it never gets old.
One of the most impressive things about the level design however is that, sometimes, the foreground and background planes will be brought into play. You can only ride on one plane, and that will never change, but sometimes things will swing from the background through the foreground to try and knock you off, or you might have to roll a barrel off of a ramp into the foreground to get it out of your way. The great thing about this system is when you're riding through a level and there's bars and boxes falling around you, barrels exploding all over the place - it adds a bit of excitement to what could have been a potentially
Trials HD really does have the components of a great game. It's challenging in the right places, it's impressive from a technical standpoint, and it's good fun. However, thanks to the limited level-sharing options, the replayability has to be brought into question. I've finished 36/39 of the main levels, played each of the twelve skill games several times, finished one of the eight tournaments, and messed around in the level editor. All of that amounted to about seven hours of play, and whilst that's no bad thing, I can't help but think that could have been potentially doubled by letting players share their created levels across the world. Also, disappointingly, there's no multiplayer. The only reason I'd go back to the game is to maybe shave some time off of some of the more challenging levels, or try out a tournament, but there's only so many times you can repeat these levels without repetition setting in. I genuinely feel that not being able to share levels with the rest of the world will dramatically hurt the life of this game. That's a shame, because overall, Trials HD is a very good game indeed, and it's definitely worth your 1200 Microsoft points.
Trials was a lot of fun on the PC, this looks pretty cool
Thursday, August 13th 2009
I tried out the trial (lol) version and thought it was kindda neat but I dunno, it didn't click with me. A little bit too much error and trial for me...even if that's the point. Maybe if they ever knock off 400 points I'd consider it.
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