Review: Trials HD (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Trials HD
Genre: Racing/Platform
Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: 08/12/09

Before you consider buying Trials HD, you should take a little quiz I have devised…

– Have you ever thrown your controller during a frustrating game?

Well that’s the only question, but it IS an important one if you are going to buy Trials HD. Because if you have answered yes, than I can guarantee that you are going to throw a controller through the closest wall, then find it and jump up and down on that controller while inventing new swear words in order to vent the frustration that is Trials HD.

I loved and hated every minute of this game.

Trials HD was described by one of my co-workers as Excitebike for masochists, and I couldn’t agree with that description more. Trials is part of Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade and it is a motorcycle physics based platform game. That’s right, it is a motorcycle platform game. Essentially Trials boils down to riding a motorcycle across different platforms while adjusting your speed and angle so that you are crossing the level as fast as possible but with as few crashes as possible.

Graphically it’s a good looking game. There are a lot of effects that can be going on in the background, such as frequent explosions, and the game always runs smoothly. The game is presented from a 2D perspective from the side of the bike rider and most of the backgrounds are have a warehouse theme. The game never really gets more graphically complex than that, but it also doesn’t need to.

Audio-wise, the game has a decent soundtrack and above average sound effects. The most important sound effect comes from the motorcycles themselves, and it’s important to listen to the revving sound effects of the different bikes at times since the power you use to overtake different ramps is important in the latter difficulty levels of the game. There are different amusing saying during the loading screens of the game.

As mentioned earlier, the game revolves around getting across a stage in the least amount of time with the least amount of faults as possible. This is easier than it sounds. During the beginning levels this isn’t so hard to do. All it takes is pretty much holding down the accelerator button and occasionally changing your angle. It’s the later levels that are controller throwingly difficult.

Actually that’s putting it mildly. Trials is more than just the title of the game. Trial and error is a major part of the game. You will be tempted to throw your controller into the wall then jump up and down on it until it has been stomped into submission. Then you may even send death threats to the creators of said controller.

Of course you may be wondering if the game is so maddening, is it actually fun at all to play? The answer surprisingly is yes. It’s fun and addictive.

Part of the reason behind this is the simple mechanics at play. There are only two analog controls, Right Trigger for gas and Left Trigger for brake. You can also hit A and X respectively but it doesn’t give you the exact control that you’ll need for the harder levels. The only other control you will need for the main game is the left control stick to lean either forward or backward. That’s it. In this simplicity is madness.

For the first couple of levels you do not even have to do much leaning and there aren’t very many difficult jumps. These are easy to beat without leaning too much and without any faults. Gradually the game gets more difficult and adds some jumps. Then it gets even more difficult and adds flipping backwards, explosive barrels and such. THEN it gets hard. After that there are ramps that require specific acceleration to get past, and a specific degree of leaning. Suddenly every rev of the engine and every degree of leaning forwards or backwards becomes all important and you go from barely making any mistake to hoping that you can get it under 100 faults in one run. That’s right, 100. I’ve made at least twice that number of some of the Extreme maps.

But it’s a learning experience. After making 100+ mistakes the first time you learn how to get past each area and the next time you might only make 30 mistakes. Then 10. Then you will finally go through the track faultless. Once you get the hang of the tought tracks all the time you will be holding your breath as you cruise through each obstacle on the way to making it through without a fault.

There are multiple ways the game encourages you to do better. Not only is the feeling of actually passing the level without faults (or passing Inferno II at all) a great feeling, but the game gives you medals to aim for which you can gain by beating levels with a certain amount of faults and under a certain amount of time. At first only access to Bronze, Silver and Gold medals are available, but just when you feel great about the times that you had already passed the levels at, you can unlock the Platinum medals which are nearly impossible to get.

On top of that, the game displays the times of different friends on your friend’s list and their times on the menu. Beating a level is satisfying, but whooping the score of the other folks on your Friendslist is even better.

Aside from the racing aspect of the game is the mini-game portion, which is really my favorite part of the whole package. There are several different mini-games to unlock, and each of the games provide a different way of preparing for the main game. There are different variations such as King of the Hill where you try to drive up a steep ramp the highest. There’s one where you try and drive the farthest on top of the ball and another where you try to drive the farthest inside of the ball. One where you are on fire and try to drive faster to put it out, another when you try to eject the farthest and another sadistic one where you through the rider down the stairs and try and break as many bones as possible.

What makes all of these games so addictive is the fact that as difficult or frustrating as they can be you know there is a way to pass them. This isn’t like a poorly planned platform games where when you miss a jump because it was poorly designed, in Trials everything is extremely well designed and it’s just trying to find the right combination of leaning and acceleration in order to do better and show up everyone on your friendslist. It’s competitive.

Aside from the racing and mini-games there is also a full creation suite that takes some getting used to but once you figure out the basics it is easy to create a track. There are a bunch of options to choose from and between racing and creating you’ll gain a better understanding of the game. Except one major problem…

You can only share tracks with your friendslist.

This is the stupidest decision and for the life of me I can’t understand this. Even Flock had a creation system that allowed you not only to share but rate other players creations online. The fact that you can only share between your friends severely limit’s the potential of such a great creation system. I’ve already seen some great tracks online via the power of Youtube, however I can’t play them and like a steering wheel in my pants this drives me nuts.

Still between the attempts and failures of the different tracks, tournaments, and mini-games as well as competing with people you know there is a lot of replay value and longevity. But having an online system like Flock would’ve really put it over the top.

The Scores
Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Very Good
Audio: Enjoyable
Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
Final Score: Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
Trials HD is a frustrating and rewarding experience that will likely lead to a whole landfill of broken controllers. If you can stand the challenge and have friends who can play it, than the 1200 price point will not be a problem. However if any of the above does not sound interesting than you will likely not enjoy this game.

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