The Trials series has come a long way since it was the number one way of wasting time back in middle school computer labs. Going from the most popular Flash game on the web to one of the top five selling games on Xbox Live Arcade has been quite a trip. Of course, with such popularity comes a new game that breaks even more boundaries than the original game did, bringing both innovation with gameplay and a new level of fun that will be hard to beat.
Trials Evolution continues the same tricky way of play from the first XBLA offering, Trials HD. The ultimate goal is to get your dirt bike rider to the end of the level as quickly as possible, and hopefully without crashing. This is easier said than done, since a large part of the challenge comes from mastering the physics of your bike, controlling your speed and lean, and finding a way to carefully make it across different terrains. Depending on how quickly you finish, and with as few faults as possible, you’ll earn a bronze, silver or gold medal. The level structure is done so that so many medals are required to reach a “license test.” Complete a license test and you’ll earn more powerful bikes and unlock more levels to play.
Whereas the last game confined players almost entirely to levels thrown together inside warehouses, Evolution kicks the insanity up to 11 by having levels taking place on deadly mountains, on baseball fields, debris in an ocean, an active war zone, a collapsing building, and even levels inspired by other XBLA veterans Limbo, Portal and Castle Crashers. It’s easy to get distracted by fighter jets wizzing over your head as you try to time a jump, but the level of detail of stuff going on at any one time is mind-bogglingly awesome. Not to mention the level of graphical detail here is incredibly impressive for a downloadable title.
And for the creative gamers out there, Evolution comes with a track creator. Describing the track creator as robust and complex would be a terribly understatement. The tools here are the exact same tools used by the developers to make their tracks. You can place set pieces, cue triggers for events, place power-ups, alter the weather, everything. A track made in the creation mode can be as detailed or as simple as you want it to be. Although, for those intimidated by the sheer amount of options, there’s a simple mode for the slightly less uninitiated.
You can even upload and download tracks online if you happen to think you’ve got something great, or hear about a track uploaded by some creative genius that you’ve got to try out.
Because of the emphasis on user-generated levels if you’ve already finished the base game, you can theoretically be playing the game forever. It’s seriously the LittleBigPlanet of racing platformers.
Evolution is also the first game in the series allowing for 4-player multiplayer either online or locally, allowing not only the sharing of times through leaderboards and whatnot, but racing other friends and laughing hilariously at each other while watching each other stumble over hills.
It’s also worth noting that there are some light customization options, although they’re nothing to get excited about. You buy clothes and bike parts using the money you earn from completing a race, although they have no value other than pure aesthetics. There also aren’t a ton of options, but most players probably won’t look twice at the customization offerings anyway.
The only thing working against the game is the incredible difficulty you’ll face at some point. Depending on your skill level, there will come a point where you’ll be so frustrated with finishing a level, or getting past a certain part, either a legitimately difficult piece or just a stupid mistake you keep making over and over again. For me, it was the monster track entitled simply Gigatrack, but everyone will have their own stopping point, unless of course they’re a God. You’ll go from happy you’re getting gold medals in the beginning to just plain happy you could finish a track. The fact that the game eventually gets so incredibly frustrating is a downside. Granted, you’ll keep wanting to play just so you can play more of the fun levels, but there is that large bit of demotivation you’ve got to deal with. Although it should be noted that the difficulty curve doesn’t spike quite as much as the previous game does. It’s much more gradual this time around.
RedLynx has outdone themselves once again, and addressed every single fan gripe with the first game, and then some. Trials Evolution may be frustrating and challenging at times, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the game is loads of fun. It’s amazing how a simple idea can blow up into such a successful and surprisingly complex game. Everyone that can spare the 1.23 GB worth of space needs to give this game a shot.
This review is based on a copy of the game we received for review purposes.
Trials Evolution doesn't just build on what made the first game great, it cements itself as a competitor for Xbox LIVE Arcade's Game of the Year honors.