While many may regard Geometry Wars and its sequel the trademark games for the Xbox Live Arcade era, I would campaign for Trials HD and even more for Trials Evolution. Then RedLynx’s (now Ubisoft RedLynx) fantastic biking platformer mashup proved to be my favorite excuse for letting my compulsive tendencies run wild, attempting to beat my friends’ high scores (hi, Pete!) and having a blast doing so, even when I failed. Ever since Ubisoft’s acquisition of RedLynx, Trials has seen its share of middle-of-the-road titles like Trials of the Blood Dragon and Trials Fusion, and while it isn’t downright the best entry so far, Trials Rising brings the franchise back to vogue, thanks to a stronger focus on what Trials does best.
Where Fusion sort of lost some people with its futuristic theme, Trials Rising is smack dab back to crazy twists to faux real world, and most importantly, it’s back to time trialing and conquering levels, relegating the more annoying trick requirements to side activities, where they belong. For the most part, Rising does a good job varying things up from level to level, thanks to the introduction of objectives. They start out rather simple, having you, say, finish a course without going over a set number of mistakes, or simply beat a certain time, and get increasingly more demanding.
The weakest part about these, however, is once you’re ready to move on from a part of the slightly convoluted world map where Trials Rising pins its events on, it forces you to run certain levels repeatedly, as a race, with the first race tasking you to place in 4th (out of 8), then 2nd (out of 4), and then 1st (out of 2). It’s a requirement that pops up and never wavers, which is disappointing, because the level of challenge in these is disappointingly low, with how the other riders tend to make way too many mistakes, and the tracks being way less exciting than the actual ‘normal’ stages.
The level design has always been the crux in these games, and Trials Rising has you running some great tracks that definitely evoked memories from the older games in the series, in both theme and actual layout. The progression in this game might proved to be a little slow for more seasoned Trials players, but considering it’s been quite a while since the last one, I can give them a pass for including so many easy levels in my way before dishing out the real meanies.
And then there’s the tutorial suite in the form of videos and actual hands-on levels that’s included with the game, which brings a voice over recorded by a supposedly master Trials player that ended up getting a job at the development studio, who gives you tips and drills in all of the basic, and advanced techniques, grading you along the way. For someone like me who’s a little rusty, it’s an excellent tool, and I can imagine newcomers really getting the most out of this, especially which how it eases you into its “curriculum”, not simply unlocking everything right off the bat, but only as you gain levels in-game.
Leveling up is perhaps the weakest aspect of Trials Rising, along with the introduction of loot boxes, which both play in tandem, considering you get a loot box every time you level up. Content is generally doled out well until the level 35 range, but then things slow down, requiring you to grind for better times and experience. Also, different bikes are locked behind a level gate, which might piss off returning players expecting to hop into their favorites right away, thanks to the steep requirements.
Thankfully, the loot boxes don’t provide any sort of gameplay advantages, merely giving you parts that can be used to customize your rider and bike, like silly wearable accessories, winning screen commemorations and emotes, and decals you can plaster all over your virtual self and ride. As with the current crop of Ubisoft games, you are also free to invest real-world currency in order to buy these, but in all honesty, I find them completely superfluous, since my rider and bike are the last thing I’m paying close attention to visually while playing, other than minding their stance, speed and position on the track. To each their own!
To counter the icky loot boxes, there’s the tandem bike addition, which to me is the best thing they could’ve come up with for Trials. I loved the multiplayer portion of the previous versions, but man, actually having to cooperate with a fellow human being, with both of us controlling the same bike is on a whole other level. Although rare, the times that I actually have someone locally to play games with may prove to be best spent trying to get through in tandem mode for sure.
In all regards, this is by far the best looking Trials game to date, and there’s a lot going for its menus and overall art design. I could’ve done without the butt metal soundtrack, though. It’s pretty weak but by no means a turn-off to the rest of the game. The visual variety for rival player riders is cool to see and all, even though you’ll probably be sick of seeing the same winning pose by the… uh… 3rd time you see someone’s gorilla head, lizard gloved, jeans wearing avatar smacking their ass and playing the kazoo when you lose.
Seeing the usual Ubisoft business sneak its way into Trials might make long standing fans away frown at Trials Rising, but the overall track quality and the downright fantastic tutorial mode should prove to be strong reasons to stick around and try to get better and better at the game. And if all else fails, call in a friend to help you out.