This remastered puzzle-racer returns to the PC. Murray rips his hair out to bring you this review.
By Murray Hibble on March 25, 2013 at 10:02 am
It feels weird reviewing a game that’s already been released to almost universal acclaim on the Xbox Live Arcade store — but this is a PC-gaming site, and so there’s a chance you guys may never have heard of this madness. That is simply unacceptable.
Made by the devious Red Lynx team (now a Ubisoft studio), the last time PC gamers sampled their work was with Trials 2: Second Edition in 2008 (which has been remastered and included in this release). In fact, let’s put the kickstand down for a moment: head off and install it on Steam if you own it. Go on, it’s only 135Mb. Fun game, isn’t it! Yes, it’s a shame it looks like arse (even by the standards of the time).
Trials Evolution: Gold on the other hand, weighs in at 3.17 GB on Steam (or Uplay) — that’s quite the difference in storage space and while of course the nature of modern graphics explains the huge increase, I like to think that there’s more than a little magic mixed in.
Describing the physical nature of Trials shouldn’t really be necessary even for PC gamers — it’s a puzzle-game where you need to navigate each track section under a set time with under a set number of faults to earn medals which then unlock new tracks to race on. The physics of it are simple; pitching forward, leaning backwards and careful throttle management are the underpinnings of the gameplay, but it’s in the navigating that the core experience really starts.
What is very necessary to impart here is the excruciating joy that comes of landing a gold-medal time after not just retrying the track 10 times, but retrying a single tricky-section upwards of 50 times. It’s not just bloody-mindedness that drives you to such extremes either, nor is it the joy of finally nailing it (although that feels pretty damned good); the allure is that you can see the rhythm of the section you’re trying to beat… if I pitch forward just there while accelerating like this, and then use that speed to bounce my back wheel just so… and articulating those ideas through your control inputs will have you coming back to Trials for a long time to come.
Helping you stay the course through the enjoyably torturous grind are the gorgeous arenas; moonlit ruins, ancient cities, flooded valleys and war-torn beaches are among the many beautifully presented environments you’ll tear up with your varied assortment of motorcycles (which, as a proper trials-bike-riding friend stated quite indignantly, “..aren’t trials bikes at all”). The backgrounds aren’t as actively animated as other examples of 2D/3D games (except perhaps the appropriately named ‘Mindbender’ level) but as you’ll see when we get to the track editor, the basic tracks on offer are potentially a very small part of Trials’ value.
Rounding out the package are special stages where you’ll ski, fly, operate UFO’s, balance steel balls on your head and more. The revamped ‘HD Warehouse’, new levels, multiplayer and special challenges alone are enough core gameplay to thoroughly justify the $24.95 pre-order asking price, but thanks to the included editor, there is an impressive longevity to this title that hopefully means more money for the developer, as new players are attracted through user-made content rather than milking existing players through DLC.
I have a few gripes with Trials and I mention them only in passing, as none really detract from the quality of the game. Your bike rider is quite an ugly little sprite and it’s a shame that the attention lavished on the environment didn’t include him (not a ‘her’, oddly). You’ll earn dollars through the course of the game that can be spent on fancy new outfits and hats, but this felt unnecessary given that I never felt connected to my rider — the tracks are the star of the show, although I would have liked the option to change my bike’s appearance in some way.
There were some points where my PC would stutter through maybe 10 seconds worth of frames and this happened intermittently across a few different levels (primarily on levels that utilised a lot of shadow and lighting effects) but this wasn’t enough to affect a run. With that hiccup aside, it ran beautifully and, while I found the keyboard worked fine, my best runs came through using a controller.
Trials is one of those glorious games that ships with the very editor that the developers used to make the game. Now, like TrackMania and Little Big Planet before it, you can create your own mind-boggling creations that can easily be uploaded for others to share and vote on. Or, more likely, you’ll enjoy the fruits of others’ hard labour — as the ‘pro’ track editor is exhaustively comprehensive.
With the ability to manipulate the game in some fairly incredible ways, it has the same flexibility of some of LBP’s crazier mods: just check out this ridiculously detailed level of Skyrim’s Riften to know what I’m talking about. Unconvinced? How about a speeder-run across Endor, or this weird Scramble-inspired piece. Wait, one last one! Smokin’ jehosephat!
I haven’t touched on multiplayer for two reasons. Firstly, I prefer a singleplayer experience and approached the game largely from that angle, but mainly I found it really difficult to get a match going due to what I’m hoping was the fact the game is not yet released. Hopefully this really is the issue, as at some points when uploading my end of round score it was quicker to select ‘go offline’ so I could progress rather than wait — this may be to do with Ubisoft’s servers again not being fully functional before release however, a theory further reinforced by the fact that the nifty inbuilt Youtube up-loader worked flawlessly. This might be a good time to note that Trials is available both from UPlay and from Steam, but requires the Uplay service to launch the game.
Multiplayer itself will pit you against up to three other players racing side by side and while the commotion can take your eyes off your rider making landings infuriatingly difficult at times, it’s a fun distraction and gets quite intense as you find a run that puts you slightly in the lead (or disastrously behind). I expect this will be a major drawcard for those who want to race with friends, but it doesn’t appear to have the longevity of simply trying out other people’s creations.
Wow, you really read this far? Okay, here’s the bottom line: Trials Evolution: Gold is superb. Go buy it now.
Wait, sorry, one more.
Product for this review supplied by Ubisoft.