Trials HD
Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Microsoft XBLA
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

I love physics-based games. They can be butt-ugly and have really annoying characters out of a JPRG screaming at you through outrageous costumes and as long as I can play about with Newton's favourite force like a child in a sandbox I'm a happy man. Trials HD is a simple concept taken to the extreme: get your Trials biker bloke from A to B across a 2-D obstacle course without bailing, breaking bones or exploding. Sounds easy? It isn't.

The physics in the game are ridiculously demanding and the bike incredibly responsive to leaning forward and back (using the right stick) meaning that not only are quick reactions needed but also with sensitivity so as not to send your rider arse over tit when ascending a massive rise made of sewer pipes or back-flipping onto a giant spring-loaded platform. Luckily, with each level consisting of at least four or five tricky sections, the game has regular checkpoints which you can reset to if you bail but don't want to start back at the beginning.

When you finally reach the end of a course you are awarded a medal based on your time and the amount of times you 'bailed'. This is the addictive part, as simply getting around the courses isn't enough anymore and you'll keep replaying levels until you get that perfect run and the gold medal.

Although occasionally there are levels that resemble a Trials session with giant tyres, boulders and great freight containers to navigate, usually the levels are completely unbelievable even on the easier settings, opting more for fun with the physics engine than realism, thankfully. This leads to some impressive courses full of steep hill climbs, deep gullies and impressive loop-the-loops, moving on to unsettling dream worlds with floating ramps and flips and a level that plays like a giant version of Mousetrap!

But while you marvel at how clever the developers were in making these levels you'll also be cursing them as they never stopped once to appreciate what they'd created. Each level is a new type of challenge with new obstacles and new ways to approach them. Usually this is a welcome sight in the game but in some places there are amazingly fun levels with great uses of physics that you'd like to have seen carried on past just the one level. The Mousetrap-esque level and one which has you balancing on the top of two giant steel balls stand out, but these clever designs are sadly never reworked later on.

However for some levels you'll be jumping for joy that they aren't repeated as Trials has the most ridiculously skewed difficulty curve I've seen in a game for some time. Difficulty varies from stage to stage and some really are a chore to get to the end of, which really is a shame when most are a joy. Although by the time I got to the 'Extreme' difficulty most were completely out of my league and you are constantly re-playing the same section of each level over and over just to get through, meaning each level takes at least half an hour to clear, even though end to end the course might only be a minute long.

If you complete the game or get tired of the more challenging stages you can always create something of your own with the editor, which uses scaled-down elements of the game to let you create some surprisingly complex courses. As with playing the game although the editor is a simple tool it actually takes a long time to get the length of jumps etc. just right, since the physics mean this is all trial and error. This means even after you've designed a nice ramp or jump you'll spend ages trying to perfect the physics first to work and secondly to your desired difficulty. I spent hours just making a loop-the-loop with a few ramps at the end, which really discouraged me from trying anything more complex.

More annoyingly this was a perfect chance to create a community and also extend the game's lifespan indefinitely; user-generated levels mean even beginners who enjoy physics games would have a near-unlimited amount of easy stages to choose from, and those who fancy a challenge could try the most testing of stages available on the web. But for some reason the developers decided to restrict sharing of levels to those on your friends list only, thereby restricting everybody (and especially the gamer without any mates) and making the editor much less appealing. Why bother spending the time when only a couple of people will play the level a couple of times?

Trials HD is a tricky one to review, as my opinion on it changes every time I play it. On one hand it is one of the most innovative, fun, accessible arcade games I've seen on the marketplace yet and, certain DLC aside, the only thing I've seen that is genuinely worth shelling out for. On the other hand it is hideously frustrating at times and when you hit a wall (literally) you can't get past, you’ll want to throw the controller out the window.

But you'll go back to it. You always do. And that's what counts...

Best Bits

- Great physics-based puzzles
- Addictive, ‘one more go’ gameplay
Worst Bits

- Can be frustrating
- Difficulty spikes
- Wasted potential with the level editor

by: Crazypunk

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