Darwin’s Daredevils

The original Trials HD won over the hearts of wannabe daredevils everywhere when it first crashed (literally and figuratively) onto the scene in 2009 with its tight controls and the simple, yet addictive game play of a motorcycle rider working his way through insane and twisted obstacle courses. So, when a sequel was announced, fans everywhere double-checked their life insurance and prepared to start smashing and crashing all over again.

And it’s a good thing they did because both fans of the original Trials HD and gamers who may have missed it the first time around, but are curious about the hype, will find that with just a few tweaks and expansions to that original base concept, Trials Evolution has done just that: it has evolved. Mind you, the core is still pure and simple. You are a motorcycle rider tasked with working his way through a series of insane courses that range from some simple slopes in the countryside early on to doing back flips through dilapidated factories or jumping the mini-canyons that have opened up between parts of a rickety wooden roller coaster as the game gets progressively more difficult.

The key part to making these obstacle courses so fun and exhilarating though is the tight controls. Every flick of the joystick that helps shift your rider’s weight as you try to maneuver your way though each course with as few crashes as possible, while still maintaining top speed (or at least close to it) in order to beat the clock, is as fine-tuned as ever and is definitely not for the ham-handed. This gives the game a difficulty at times that older gamers may liken to the classic perilous platforming of a Mega Man and although this may frustrate and turn off some less patient gamers, the feeling of satisfaction for a hard track mastered is second to none.

But there is a lot more to this game that just the several dozen obstacle courses laid out for you in the single player mode and a chance at working your high score onto the leaderboards. Trials Evolution now also features a 4-player versus mode where players will take on the same course, side by side, and attempt to win a series of races that almost have an Excitebike feel to them. Crashes are, of course, penalized so not only is it a race against your opponents, but just like in the single player, the richest rewards are for those who can maintain their balance on their two-wheeler the entire way through.

The grandest addition to the game though may be the expansion of one of the original game’s most illustrious features: the track builder. Now, there are two different versions. A ‘lite’ version that is similar to the first game’s and a ‘pro’ version that is actually the same track builder that the developer used to build each track in the single player mode. This offers possibly unlimited replay value for Trials Evolution as the community is challenged with making tracks that are worthy of the Trials name. And with tons of zany new additions, like UFOs or Jetpacks being your transportation mode of choice instead of your standard motorcycle, the possibilities are near endless.

Trials Evolution does have a couple of minor shortcomings. Obviously, there is no real story to the single player mode and the audio can get repetitive. As you progress and crash more and more, hearing the same crunch as the last time you crashed can get on your nerves a little is all I’m saying and I think having a licensed music selection would’ve been a lot more in the game’s interest than the generic stuff we hear throughout instead.

With Microsoft officially launching their ‘Arcade Next’ promotion with this game, marking that XBLA games can now feature up to 400 Gamerscore a pop, it is very fitting that Evolution is in the title. And if I were looking to start a new promotion, there are few games that I think could get you off on the right foot more than Trials Evolution. Great game play, an expansive track builder, more interactivity with the community than ever before, and considering it’s $15 (1200 MSP) price tag, Trials Evolution is a must have download for gamers everywhere.

SUMMARY:  Fans of the original Trials will love the steps the series has taken to move forward while being more open for newcomers to jump right in and have fun with it. It can be a bit frustrating at times though, as the game almost has an old-school platformer feel to it being easy to learn, but very difficult to master.

  • THE GOOD: Robust track creator, local/online multiplayer
  • THE BAD: Difficulty of some levels may turn off less patient gamers
  • THE UGLY: Slamming helmet first into a low beam just past a high jump

SCORE: 9.5

Trials Evolution is an Xbox 360 (XBLA) exclusive.