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Trials Evolution

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: RedLynx
Release Date: April 18, 2012


XBLA Review - 'Trials Evolution'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 31, 2012 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Trials Evolution returns to Xbox Live Arcade with all-new challenges, expansive outdoor environments, and four-player multiplayer via Xbox Live.

A follow-up to 2009's Trials HD, Trials Evolution builds on the success of its predecessor simply by providing more of everything seen in the original. While this is great news for fans of Trials HD, new players are still in for a challenge, as the core gameplay hasn't changed much over the intervening years.

The best way to think of Trials Evolution is as an updated version of Konami's Motocross Maniacs. Trials Evolution is a lot prettier and has a more accurate physics engine, but ultimately, the gameplay is quite similar. You have a motorcycle that travels on a predetermined path. As the player, you do not steer; instead, you are responsible for applying throttle, using the brake and balancing the weight of your rider so the bike doesn't crash. It might sound simple, but it's not. After playing a few tracks, the level of difficulty becomes quite obvious.

Trials Evolution's claim to fame is in its physics engine and the level of precision required to complete each track with a flawless run. You can't just phone it in here. If you don't stick every landing perfectly, you're going to face-plant in a spectacular fashion. It's the sort of thing that appeals to perfectionists, though it can be incredibly frustrating to the casual player due to the lack of visual feedback.

Because of the lack of visual feedback, it can sometimes be difficult to tell exactly why your character took a header or managed to fall flat on his back. Most of the time, it's obvious, and for those moments, you simply laugh, hit restart and go on your merry way. However, a certain number of crashes manage to push the "WTF?!?" factor. There are times when everything looks good, yet your bike will suddenly get away from you, ruining a perfect run. It's moments like these where the four-letter words come out in abundance.

Visually, Trials Evolution is a treat, most specifically because it manages to break free of the warehouse environment in the original. Rather than pre-loading all of the game assets, Trials Evolution uses streaming to create a much larger world. A few courses have indoor sections, but most take advantage of the large outdoor spaces made available. There is also no fear of going vertical, with one track crossing a decrepit bridge over a canyon and another racing over floating islands. One neat trick is the fact that the entire world is always rendered. If you miss a jump and plummet toward the earth, don't restart right away. If you wait, the camera will follow your rider all the way down until he hits the ground with a thud.

The developers at RedLynx should be commended for their creativity in track design, as all of the locales vary greatly from one another. They run the range from basic to insane. One course is inspired by the twisting dream world in "Inception" while another takes its cue from Limbo. On top of the track itself, all of the locations also offer a distinct theme. One happens at dusk on an old trail over a waterfall, another occurs in a sewage plant and yet another is in a forest at night with a blood-red sky and a full moon (aptly titled Ridinghood).

Also new to the Trials Evolution feature set are curved courses. Again, the steering happens automatically, but the curves add a bit more variety to track design than possible with just a straight left-to-right run.

If there's a downside to the course layout, it's that the camera is sometimes a bit too close to the rider by default. This means you can't always see what's coming up next until you're right on top of it. While this doesn't impact every track, there are some that are impossible to pass without memorizing the layout.

In addition to the primary set of courses, Trials Evolution features a tournament mode and the Skill Game Circus. The tournaments are self-explanatory, while the circus levels are there to have fun with the game engine. One level has you trying to get as far as possible on a limited amount of gas. Another has the throttle permanently on, while a third prevents you from leaning. There is even a UFO level and one where you have to roll a large metal ball along a track.

Yes, the Trials Evolution engine can support more than just racing. Why is this important? The game ships with a full level editor. Available in two forms (lite and pro), the level editor is the same tool used by the RedLynx developers to create the tracks in Trials Evolution. If you've got the inclination, you can build just about any custom course you can dream up.

Those custom courses can also be shared online via Xbox Live, and it is here that Trials Evolution makes a noted improvement over Trials HD. Whereas the former only allowed sharing of custom courses between friends, Trials Evolution offers up a completely free custom course repository. You can upload and download additional levels at will, more or less ensuring that there is always something new to play. A built-in rating system helps filter out low-quality tracks, and a "RedLynx Picks" section highlights user-created courses recommended by the developers.

Rounding out the package is an online multiplayer mode, though this is the least impressive feature here. While you can race online, everyone races on his or her own track, so even when you're racing side-by-side, it's still a time trial at heart. Riders are docked points for each crash, discouraging reckless racing.

Much like a "new and improved" cereal at your grocer, Trials Evolution successfully makes small improvements to its predecessor to cater to its fans. In that area, RedLynx has succeeded. Anyone who enjoyed Trials HD will no doubt love Trials Evolution. Unfortunately, those looking for something more than "more of the same" aren't going to find it here. As the name implies, this is just an evolution of what came before; it's not a revolution.

Score: 8.0/10

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