When Trials HD released as an Xbox Live Arcade title back in August 2009 as part of the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade, no one expected it to become as big a hit as it did, and consequently Trials HD will go down in history as one of the best Xbox Live Arcade titles ever.
Trials HD put you in the riding boots of a trials rider and asked you to complete ever more fiendishly challenging courses, judging speed, balance and momentum through each evil obstacle making you get more and more frustrated as you got further and further through the level, especially when you got to the really tough “extreme” difficulty levels! The trials were made even more difficult given the fact there was little to no instruction on how to get over a seemingly impossible obstacle such as a 30ft jump or a 6 ft wall with a vertical ramp in front of it, even with the instant reset button allowing you to jump to the last checkpoint you passed or even to the beginning of the level, the fact there was no real tutorials to speak of, some of the later levels were left inaccessible to some players (myself included). You could of course download replays of some of the top players to give you an idea on how to get past obstacles, but again with no real tutorial, it was still ridiculously hard to do. However it didn’t detract from the fact that it was an extremely fun game with only a few minor niggles.
If Trials HD was meant to frustrate you to the point where you wanted to break your controller. What does it’s sequel, Trials Evolution do to you? Well it is still frustrating, but Trials Evolution has been made more accessible to newer players and is there to help you and guide newer players, and players with perhaps less skill than others, through the tough levels, it does this by way of helpful tutorial’s called licence tests which you’ll unlock as you progress through the game by earning medals. Once you have obtained a set number of medals, the next license test becomes available to you, which you will need to complete before you get stuck in to the main tracks. These tutorial’s are extremely useful and do a great job of telling you how to do some of the more advanced tricks and techniques such as bunny hops and ways of jumping further forward rather than upwards.
Trials Evolution is also a much more open game. Gone are the rather bland factory/warehouse backdrops of Trials HD, although you can if you wish, make them yourself using the in game track editor, you’ll now race around, over and under an old roller coaster track, a crumbling freeway, a castle and even a baseball field, and it’s clear from the levels that Red Lynx just want you to have fun playing the game, so much so that at the end of each level your rider will be killed by being dropped, shot and otherwise pummelled in more and more brutal ways, including being shot to the moon!
All of the tracks look fantastic and they all use lighting effects in a brilliant way as you go from a track in bright sunshine to dark and rainy all in the blink of an eye, and the guitar shreddingly brilliant soundtrack makes you want to keep pushing on and playing forever. When you do finish a level, or should I say if you finish a level as well as a medal, you will receive money which you can spend on customizing your rider by buying new clothes or helmets, or you can customize your bike by putting on new parts like fenders, wheels and suspension forks, all of these you can change the colour of, so you’ll be able to make your bike and rider absolutely unique.
The level design and lighting effects are frankly, brilliant in Trials Evolution but the real beauty of Trials comes from a simple control method. Using the left stick to control the balance of your rider, the right trigger to accelerate, left trigger to brake/reverse and the B button to take you back to the last checkpoint, and that really is the genius part, the very fact that if you make a mistake you can just press a button to go instantly back to the last checkpoint or even back to the beginning of the level! All this combined with the fact you can see the performance of your friends before you start each level means you’ll be constantly trying to beat their time and will probably lead to you staying up half the night to try and beat their time (which of course is something I would never do…) in fact the new phrase in your life will likely be “just one more go”.
Tournaments also make a return in Trials Evolution, unlocking more as you progress through the game each of them getting harder and harder. Tournaments put together 3 or 4 different tracks and ask you to pass them all within a target time, the better you do, the better the medal you get, which range from Bronze to Platinum. The skill games also make a welcome return to Trials Evolution, all of which are new and different from Trials HD and will see you flapping planks of wood like wings, skiing through a course, balancing a ball in a curved track while riding along and – referencing another brilliant XBLA title – being an exploding man!
If you do – by some miracle – manage to beat the levels and get gold, or better still, a platinum medal on all tracks, you can also download new tracks direct from Red Lynx or other people all from in game. You no longer have to rely on your friends to create tracks as was the case in Trials HD, you can now get new tracks from anybody via the in game menu, all of which are free and take mere seconds to download.