“Just one more go…“
There aren’t many franchises which make PC gamers envious of their more strictly-controlled console cousins, but the Trials series is undoubtedly one of them. Trials Evolution in particular made a lot of PC gamers drool when it was released on Xbox Live Arcade last year, boasting its own track creator and zany gameplay which pushed the scrambler bike premise much further than its predecessor Trials HD. Thankfully though good sense has prevailed, as Ubisoft has finally released Trials Evolution on PC packing in the excellent Trials HD for no extra cost and the result is exactly what we’d been hoping for.
Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is the amalgamation of both Trials HD and Trials Evolution in one budget-priced pack. Rather than keeping both experiences separate, they’ve both been smooshed together creating a new lengthy career mode which boasts over two hundred puzzle, time trial and tournament events.
Trials gameplay has always been deceptively simple, with players required to guide their vulnerable rider from one side of an obstacle-laden course to another by initiating throttle input at the appropriate time and shifting their rider’s weight from front to rear to stay upright. This challenge is very loosely based on the real world Trial World Championship, but unlike the FIA-run event there’s no regard for rider safety as the constantly roaring chappy gets repeatedly flung into exploding barrels, down unending chasms and occasionally into the cosmos itself.
RedLynx’s franchise is one of the few racing experiences out there which can properly emulate that feeling of being just on the edge of control. Much like Burnout and Flatout a lot of this Trials’ enjoyment is in the speed factor alone, but when you push your skills too far course runs can often go spectacularly wrong. Yet thanks to clever game design, retrying an event or reverting to a course’s previous checkpoint is only a button press away minimalising frustration.
This gameplay simplicity is accentuated by the Gold Edition’s course design, with Trials HD’s indoor tracks proving straightforward a lot of the time, whereas Evolution’s are absolutely bonkers. In Trials HD you always stay in a grey industrial warehouse, whereas in Evolution you ride through explosion-laden battlefields, creepy countryside and lift-boasting building sites. Together both of these components make up Trials Gold’s campaign, but when you take on an event from Trials HD’s side of the equation it’s hard not to miss Evolution’s imaginative design ethos.
Evolution’s tracks push the 2.5D on-rails gameplay of Trials to absolute breaking point with surprising camera transitions and isometric turns which can come across as a bit cheap sometimes, but even during those moments of frustration it’s hard not to marvel at how far RedLynx are willing their game’s core formula. Challenges like having the accelerator stuck on or not being shift the rider’s weight, also make tracks seem more like puzzles that need solving rather than just pieces of tarmac which need to be completed in the fastest time. In addition to time trials there’s also puzzle scenarios which range from placing the rider inside a giant ball to strapping some skis onto the blighter forsaking the bike altogether. Unlocking these scenarios consistently placed a smile on our faces, as we were never sure what the career mode was going to throw at us next!
Evolution expands Trial’s HD gameplay in every conceivable area and improves upon it, with more varied challenges and a difficulty curve which allows players to do some incredible things without being pushed too far out of their comfort zone. No wonder Trials Evolution was so well reviewed when it was released last year and now it’s packaged together with HD, you can see just how revolutionary the sequel is in both scope, tone and execution.
The core principles of instant reload and constantly comparing friend performance, via leaderboards and ghosts, still permeate the entire experience, which really helps to contribute to that ‘just one more game’ factor. There’s also the option to upload replays to YouTube within the game, as long as you’re willing to grant the appropriate permissions, which again adds to the longevity and appeal of this social-minded release.
Events remain checkpoint-based so you can go back to a previous spot on a track if you fall over, but seeing as most tracks can be completed in less than a few minutes it’s best to just start again back at the beginning – especially if you want to earn that increasingly illusive gold medal.
In sheer content terms alone there’s a lot for players to get their teeth stuck into in Trials Gold. Packaging both Trials HD and Evolution together means that there’s easily over a hundred different tracks to try out here, along with half a dozen bikes and hundreds of different gear combinations to unlock. The track creator also adds a great deal of longevity, with players now able to use the more delicate input of mouse and keyboard to create new tracks. The toolset is powerful and easy-to-use, and should result in more imaginative track designs being added to the game.
Multiplayer too is another string to Trials Evolution: Gold Edition’s bow, with players able to take part in events concurrently, thanks to being given a specific line on the track. Watching competing players bail or struggle to keep both tyres on the ground provides a lot of entertainment and offers a competitive angle which the single-player campaign lacks. Occasionally connectivity issues will ruin a game and due to limited number number of players who currently own Trials Evolution: Gold Edition there will be times when you can’t find a online match at all, but when you do get a game going it’s a great bit of throwaway fun.
And that’s really the whole point, Trials as a series has never taken itself too seriously and the Gold Edition inevitably enough continues that fine tradition. This port does have some issues associated with optimisation for certain graphics cards, we occasionally found our track runs tarnished by inexplicable frame-rate drops with our Radeon 6800, but Ubisoft has brought Trials to PC with the series’ excellence, approachability and humour intact.
If you’ve somehow missed the Trials phenomenon on consoles or if you fancy an old school arcade experience which isn’t afraid to bend the rules somewhat Trials Evolution: Gold Edition should offer exactly what you’re looking for.
Two fantastic games arrive on the PC for the first time in one generously proportioned package.
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