The original Trials HD came to the XBox 360 in 2009 in what was considered one of the best Summer of Arcade promotions the XBox has done alongside titles like ‘Splosion Man and Shadow Complex. The time trial based off road biking became a smash hit with its addictive nature and online leaderboards. It was going to take something different to make the next Trials a success. Just simply adding new races wouldn’t be enough since those could simply be new add on DLC packs for the original.
Much like the last Trials HD, Trials Evolution follows the same formula with most of its levels where players must take physics and momentum and use them on their side to get the rider from point A to point B. Along the way, environmental hazards like exploding barrels, bottomless pits and oceans pop up to impede the player’s progress. Luckily, for those just hoping to complete the level, there are lots of checkpoints which players can revert back to if they miss a jump or crash to their doom.
As with the previous Trials, the addiction to the game comes from trying to make it through a level with no faults to earn the gold medals on each track and top the leaderboard. Players will find themselves sometimes annoyed with certain sections but quickly overcome that as soon as they hit the “back” button to restart the current track.
The addition of multiplayer seemed only the next natural step for Trials Evolution to take. The only thing better than crushing friends in leaderboards was to crush them head to head. The races are pushed forward when one player completes a track and other players are given ten seconds to complete it themselves. If they are unable to, they don’t get awarded points at the end of the match. This is a great alternative to waiting extended periods of time for that random player who might need an extra minute to beat tracks since they jumped past the single player game.
The updated game engine also allows for more than just traditional time trial competitions. The game is able to put the physics to use making other skill based games like flying a UFO around or sending the rider flying in to the sky and going for distance. These are welcome additions to the gameplay as they help switch up the pacing every now and then as opposed to just barreling from left to right across a level.
The creation tool of Trials Evolution is fantastic. Players are not restricted to traditional racing, much like the skill test stages. Players are given Little Big Planet 2-esque tools to create their own worlds and their own games. Some levels resemble first person shooters and mystery RPGs while others play havoc with physics to create some of the most complicated games of HORSE ever seen. These give a great added replayability to the game that wouldn’t have previously existed just from the leaderboard time trial system.
Story and Presentation:
While Trials Evolution doesn’t have a story. It has both a skill based progression of levels as well as a pretty dark tone underneath it. First, the progression. Players go through levels acquiring medals. Completing a level in under 30 minutes gives a bronze. Doing so in a specific amount of time with under a certain amount of faults or restarts grants a silver. Doing so in a certain amount of time with no faults grants a gold. As medals add up, new more difficult levels are unlocked. Players will have to go back through levels they bronze in hopes of silver and gold medals though to advance to the later stages of the game. Just getting bronzes won’t be enough to unlock the final groups of stages.
The dark tone of the game is the way it treats the player on screen. Their poor rag doll biker just gets beaten to a pulp over the course of Trials Evolution. Whether it is cracking his skull countless times against obstacles or the utter destruction he must deal with after completing levels, the poor guy doesn’t have it easy. It is no surprise that players would find themselves playing through a level inspired by Limbo at one point, complete with saw blades and a collapsing “Hotel” sign at the end of the stage.
Graphics and Sound:
Trials Evolution is a beautiful game. The simple sidescrolling 2 & 1/2 D design allows for tons of detail in both the character design and backgrounds. The graphics are crisp and the colors are vibrant. Also because of the game’s simplicity, there is tons of attention paid to light and sound design as well. There are tons of background effects through levels like changing environments and the passage of time through the day.
There are instances that the background cut scenes or foreground effects do affect the gameplay. Sometimes the camera will be focused on the background and not move along with the player to allow them to see where they need to be landing . Certain effects like explosions also can throw a player off as they explosion covers the direction that the player is facing leaving less time to adjust themselves before the landing.
The music in Trials Evolution is nothing to go crazy over as it is somewhat generic at times but falls into the background many times to the point that the player loses track of it. The main theme music and loading screen music also feel a lot like generic high energy rock but without major artists people would recognize. The better parts of Trials Evolution music are the ambient effects and SFX that occur throughout gameplay that help pace the game’s ups and downs in actions along with what is going on on-screen.
Trials Evolution succeeds in what every sequel aims to do. It takes the base game and adds subtle but noticeable improvements that make it feel like more than just additional levels to the original. Any players of Trials HD will be drawn quickly back in and those who missed it will have to give it a chance as the experience is nothing short of addictive. Just to shave those extra seconds off a time or to reset a level back to the beginning to get rid of the last second fault, people will lose themselves in Trials Evolution.
XBox Live Arcade
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00)