(First published on Gamepad Magazine, 15th January 2011)
TRIALS HD – REDLYNX (2009)
I will say at the outset that Trials HD is one of the most frustrating games I have ever played. What starts out as an easy blast through some very fun levels becomes an experience that will have you screaming with rage, smashing your controller along the way. But, for whatever reason, there is always an excuse to give it another go, and therein lies the beauty of Trials HD: good old fashioned fun!
The basic aim of Trials HD is that you control a trial biker (you can customise the colours that he wears, otherwise it’s a generic rag doll), and have to guide him through over 30 2D stages as quickly as you can. Controls are simple: you press the right trigger to accelerate, the left trigger to brake, and use the left stick to balance your rider by leaning back and forth. The courses are varied to offer different challenges; one minute you will be executing some huge jumps, the next you will be balancing on wooden boxes, bunnyhopping over explosive crates that are just begging to break your bones. There’s an awful lot of variety thrown in here, and no two tracks feel the same (even if the track is based on a previous trial, there will be subtle tweaks to make it a new challenge). Fortunately, there are several checkpoints strewn along the track, and if you fail at a certain section, you can simply press B and be instantly transported back to the last checkpoint you passed to give it another go. Passing the different trials (in which you earn medals based on your performance – bronze, silver, gold and platinum) unlocks new, more difficult stages, new bikes, and bonus skill games which can be accessed from the main menu at any time. The skill games are a personal favourite of mine, allowing you to ride inside a massive ball like a hamster, participate in a ski jump and attempt to fly through rings of fire. Great stuff all round. Also included is a level editor, allowing you to create your own personal stages, which can then be uploaded for others to play.
Another excellent feature of Trials HD is if you are connected to Xbox Live while playing, you can actively see how your friends have performed on the same course or event via a meter at the top of the screen, which helps in lengthening the game’s lifespan as you aim to shave a few seconds off of your mates best times. Added to this is that the best times in the world are also available to watch via a replay system, so if you find yourself stuck you can consult these to see what you need to do to proceed.
And then you get to the advanced stages…
Seriously, I have never experienced such an absolutely brutal learning curve in any game. Ever. At least Battletoads started out ridiculously hard and then kept charging away at that level. Trials sucks you in very early into thinking that you are a master of the courses, and then throws in some of the hardest levels known to man. When it takes you over 300 attempts just to get to the second checkpoint in King Of The Hill, you know that the game is just taking the piss. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a challenge in a game; otherwise there is no point in playing it. But there’s a line between fun and utter frustration, and Trials HD crosses it a bit too much for my liking.
If you can overcome the sharp learning curve however (like I eventually did), you will find that Trials HD is a worthy addition to any game collection. The simple premise of getting from A to B quickly really does enhance the ‘just one more go’ factor that all games are looking for, and as a result it provides endless fun. If you want a game from Xbox Live Arcade, you really can’t go wrong with Trials HD. Trials is addicting, and has great gameplay to boot. Add to this some beautiful 3D backgrounds that have explosions everywhere and a decent enough soundtrack, and you have on your hands one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade.