Trials HD is an unusual game – it originally started life as an online flash game played on your PC, but since then it’s evolved into a PC game, and in the case of this version, an Xbox Live Arcade release retailing for 1200 MS points.
Developed by Red Lynx, the game has stayed true to it’s roots by remaining incredibly simple and addictive. You control a trials rider and his motorcycle as you try to navigate over obstacles – the objective is to finish each course in the shortest time without falling off and incurring a penalty.
The controls are incredibly simple – you’re able to accelerate and brake with the right and left triggers. Meanwhile you can also lean your rider forwards and backwards with the analogue stick – and yet for all the simplicity, those moves allow you to traverse a challenging range of problems – hit the power and lift the front wheel to get onto objects, or lean into vertical slopes and feather the throttle to avoid falling off or looping the bike…
And where the game has really expanded is in the sheer amount of obstacles and challenges available. Trials in the real world often features unusual man-made problems such as walls, tyres and wrecked cars – in Trials HD you’ll get explosions, moving platforms, and ramps that launch you hundreds of feet into the air or underground. And in some levels you’ll be blown into the air by huge fans for example.
What holds everything together despite the unrealistic obstacles is that the physics of controlling the bike are immensely satisfying when it goes right – balancing the throttle and rider in just the right way to achieve seemingly impossible progress is hugely rewarding, and you can feel the weight of the rider and bike adjusting as you cope with huge jumps and landings. Although the Hard and Extreme levels really do live up their names, it rarely feels unfair – just extremely hard at times.
The sound is reasonable, with a rock soundtrack and the occasional whoop from your rider accompanying the engine noise. Graphically it’s a nice looking game, with obstacles, scenery, explosions etc all looking great and never slowing the action down in faster sections.
In addition to the main game, Trials HD also features a number of minigames, ranging from riding inside a hamster ball, to jumping through flaming hoops and becoming a human pinball. All good fun and slightly less serious than the main game.
The reason the main game becomes so serious is that although you ride individually, you’re always aware of the scores of your friends and other players – the sub-games will display the names of your friend’s best scores as you pass over them for example. And it’s this competition that really drives you to replay the tracks again and again.
There’s also a Tournament mode against virtual competitors which puts more pressure on achieving a good time without incurring any penalties. And there’s a reasonably easy and very useful track creation tool – some of the tracks in the Big Thrills pack were community-built, and there’s nothing in the game which can’t seemingly be replicated or improved by anyone with enough time and skill.
Since launch in 2009, two additional content packs have been released, the Big Pack and Big Thrills. Both retail for 400 MS Points and feature extra Achievements, Gamerscore, new tracks and variations on sub-games.
Trials HD is an incredibly fun game on easier levels, with a huge amount to offer for a downloadable arcade game based on something you played in your browser 5+ years ago. It’s really easy to pick up for beginners, and you can see a pretty big variety of tracks before the difficulty really ramps up to give you more of a long-term challenge. Plus it’s great as a game for a quick 5 minutes which then turns into a couple of hours.
The downside is obvious – if you try the free demo and don’t get any enjoyment from the battle between man+machine versus the obstacles, you won’t get anything from the full game, and you might find yourself getting frustrated with the Hard and Extreme levels – some of which can see you falling off 20, 30 or even 100 times on a level on your first attempt. You’ll also find yourself swearing a lot.
In terms of criticisms, that’s about it. Including the new DLC track packs, I’ve only managed to glitch into one piece of scenery so far, although you can occasionally drop into places from which you can’t escape – which can be a little annoying. A couple of DLC tracks also seem remarkably hard for the medium category, and the engine noise of one or two of the bikes can get irritating when you’re stuck at high revs on a slope repeatedly.
But everything considered, it’s hard to fault Trials HD. It’s a bit of a Marmite game – you’ll either love it or hate it. The biggest problem is trying not to swear when you get stuck.