Racing genre takes new turn with explosive Trials

It turns out that the formula that made the original Excitebike so fun still holds up after almost 25 years. Trials HD, available on Xbox Live Arcade, keeps the classic combination of motorcycles, speed and ramps while adding a pretty HD polish and some wonderfully realistic physics.

The goal in Trials is to quickly drive your motorcycle from the beginning of each course to the end with as few crashes, or faults, as possible. Sounds simple, right? Hold on, Evel Knieval.

You’ll be struggling over obstacles, flying off of ramps and combating the bane of your existence that is gravity. And you’ll be doing it all with a big grin on your face because Trials is very fun, extremely accessible and often hilarious.

Instead of taking place outdoors like most racing games, each level in Trials sets you in a large warehouse with planks, ramps, shipping containers and scaffolding that will both help and hinder you as you make your way to the finish line.

There are five levels of difficulty, ranging from Beginner to Extreme (believe me, it gets extreme), making for an enjoyable and fair learning curve. Considering it uses simple and intuitive controls, Trials is a great example of an “easy to learn, but hard to master” experience, with each consecutive level increasing the difficulty and expanding upon how to use the same basic movements.

It becomes apparent very quickly why the game is named Trials. You will crash. A lot. If you’re not a fan of trying things more than once, Trials is definitely not the game for you. But really, the crashes are what give the game its character.

Sure, you’ll be mad you missed the landing after that enormous jump, but you’ll be too busy laughing at the over-the-top, bone-crunching spills to really care.

Watching your ragdoll rider hopelessly go skidding across the ground after a slight timing miscalculation is half of the fun. It sounds morbid, but it keeps it interesting and exciting, especially when explosive barrels are introduced.

Plus, each level is designed with checkpoints, so your recent face plant is only a minor setback – not something that sends you back to the starting line.

Trials isn’t only about beating your best times, winning medals and finding out what cement does to skulls. No, Trials also has a slew of mini games to keep things interesting. See how far you can ride on top of a giant steel ball, how high you can climb up an endless hill or how fast you can drive while towing bombs. But that’s not all; there are 12 mini games total, and with your best score making it to online leaderboards, there is always motivation to come back and try again.

As though there was not enough to do already, there is the option to build your own track using the pipes, planks, ramps and explosives found in the regular game. This way, you can create your own personal warehouse wasteland if the other tracks start to grow stale. Best of all, you can share them with your friends online.

The only real problem with Trials is how frustrating it can become. There will be times on the harder levels when the crashes are no longer amusing and the amount of attempts to make it over some obstacle becomes absurd.

It’s not unfair; the obstacles are not impossible, and the difficulty said it was going to be hard, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. Earlier in the game, the focus is on going fast and flying high, while later the game focuses on precision and control – a much slower experience. Overall, it makes for a balanced experience, delivering fans of action and racing a fast-paced beginning, but still catering to those interested in the more cerebral and physics-focused aspects towards the end. However, this could be off-putting to gamers that aren’t interested in both.

At just $15, Trials HD delivers a ton of content. Whether picking up to play for 15 minutes or buckling down for a couple of hours, it is sure to keep you entertained.

Game

Trials HD

GENRE: Racing

CONSOLE: Xbox Live Arcade

DEVELOPER: RedLynx

RATING: Teen

RELEASED: August 12, 2009

OUR TAKE: **** (out of 5)