The sequel to the much loved Trials HD has landed on Xbox Live Arcade with the full weight of expectancy and the release has shown to be exactly as the title suggests; an Evolution. Gone are the claustrophobic warehouses of the former; welcome to the open world baby! Seemingly endless landscapes are ready to play and manipulate, all made far more competitive with friends list rivalries, leader boards and the inclusion of multiplayer. More maps, more bikes, more customization – more everything.
On paper, both Trials HD and Trials Evolution are based on the simplest idea. Get your little motorbike from start to finish across the 2D plane as quickly as possible. There are four basic control inputs; you can accelerate and brake and you can lean backwards and forwards. That’s your total riding experience. Aside from that, you can bail off your bike but this is more for the lolz than anything else and finally you have the most-used buttons – reset and restart. With Evolution, that’s where the simplicity ends as in between the start and finish are some extraordinary physics-based obstacles, canyon leaping ramps and oodles of surprises.
Straight off – this is the best game available on Xbox Live Arcade. A bold claim perhaps but this is surprising to no one as a great developer was given enough time and enough budget to ensure that all that is included is top notch; gorgeous HD backdrops are a pleasure to buzz through, the controls and physics are without fault, the online support has so far not suffered a hiccup and most importantly the game is preposterously good fun. Even the most cack-handed, uncoordinated amateur will enjoy this as much as the committed die hard – although the experienced player may find it painful to watch those less-gifted as they crash for the 400th time in a row.
The huge number of courses is a blessing as the difficulty curve of Evolution would look exactly as that of the landscape of the tracks. Easy events are as taxing as riding a gypsies’ carousel at your local shopping centre, Hard tracks will make you swear more than is acceptable in your own house and Extreme tracks are basically impossible for us mere mortals – I spent a good fifty retries to complete one to get the 20 Gamerscore! And speaking of Gamerscore there’s 400 points available here, the first download title to offer this amount.
The tracks range from quick blasts to the finish line in less than 30 seconds to Gigatrack; found halfway through, Gigatrack is a medium-difficulty track, the length of which is mind-blowing. It covers kilometres and my first run through took me thirteen minutes. I’ve got it down to 7 minutes with almost faultless runs, a testament to the distance it spans.
Ticking boxes: we’ve got great controls, lovely graphics, balanced gameplay and a low price for amount of content. So far, so good; the game would be brilliant as-is, but that’s before we’ve even mentioned the true Evolution of the series: The map editor. I have not seen an included editor with as many possibilities in any game, including Halo’s Forge.
One week. Just one week. That was how long it has taken for the Red Lynx pre-made maps to become obsolete to me and the user-created tracks became the main showcase of Trials Evolution.
Previous user-made tracks could only be shared with friends. Now, within seconds you can search for any difficulty, style and game type you wish and have the map downloaded and ready to play. The top rated maps are frankly phenomenal. In the space of a few hours I had played through reproductions of Portal test chambers, odes to Mario Kart and even a top down Zelda clone! Users have found ways to bend the game to do things it was not meant to do. There is more than a subtle sense of LittleBigPlanet here – this from a title billed as a Motocross Physics game. As the weeks go on, maps are getting updated as version two, three and beyond – each more enterprising than the last. This will add to the longevity of Evolution, a game I’m sure will still be played until the release of the next title, whether that be on the 360 or its successor console.
Red Lynx were either very confident of how many units they would sell or they seriously underestimated the ingenuity of the users creating tracks. DLC will be nigh on impossible to produce beyond new creation elements, let alone sell to the fan base. Why buy a bunch of Redlynx produced tracks, when there are thousands of free available, a large number of which are already much better than those included with the game?
Despite the enthusiasm, there are however one or two negatives stopping this being the ultimate experience. First off, the sound; I quiet like the track ‘Higher’ on the OST but the rest is utter garbage. The soundtrack is guilty of trying far too hard to fit in to the Motocross image and the result is some woefully poor faux-metal tracks, linked with some Jackass members whooping and yodelling… sigh. The multiplayer is also a bit wet. The formula is to take the single player tracks and add three other riders at the same time. This only slightly differs from racing their ghost and should have been a minor feature, not a major selling point. It does have local multiplayer, but it’s a better laugh just taking it in turns. I’m really trying for other bad points, but that’s all I’ve got for downers.
At 1200 points, this is an absolute steal. I would happily pay full retail price as I don’t think any recent game will get as much hours invested as this. User-created maps show no sign of slowing down – the ones already made have massive replayability. There’s loads of extras such as the ten-odd mini games in the Skill Circus, your mates will love it as it has couch coop, it can be played for five minutes or five hours and you’ll still love every minute.