In Depth Review: Trials HD [X360]
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If you are the type of person who enjoys tough challenges that will have you pressing the restart button at a rate faster than your heartbeat, then this game may just be for you. Trials HD lives up to its moniker with its innate ability to not only put your skills to the test, but also to try the limits of your patience and sanity. A game simple in concept and execution, it will shock you with a difficulty curve that rivals other physics based puzzlers.
Like many games of its ilk, Trials HD starts you out slow and gentle; a little gas to get your bike going, hit a few ramps to experience the in-flight physics at work and then safely cross your first finish line. Moments later you’ll be screaming at the poor virtual rider as he eats track for the umpteenth time because it’s obviously his fault for leaning too far forward off that last jump.
The game’s controls rely on simple but precise analog input and are pared down to the essentials: gas, brake, lean forward and lean back. This minimalist control scheme lets player skill take center stage as you propel your rider through twisted tracks that are more comparable to a retro Sonic stage than a motocross stunt track. At times, you’ll even feel that old school sense of speed as you pray to make it through the rollercoaster ride between checkpoints.
Thankfully, the designers behind this nerve-racking experience were merciful enough to litter each stage with a plethora of checkpoints. In some of the more advanced stages your mind will no longer be thinking about reaching the end, instead focusing on the struggle of just simply reaching that checkpoint you can see mere feet away. A problem may arise in the final stages where there is a high probability that you’ll run into the designers’ ludicrous inclusion of a hard-set 500 attempts or 30 minute time limit per stage. This breaking point is disheartening. For those who are willing to press through a stage, struggling through an arduous journey between checkpoints, only to hit either of those bitter ends and be cut short of the ultimate goal is rage inducing enough to be fearful for the safety of your gaming hardware.
It’s without question that this game is not for the weak-willed. You will try, you will fail and you will repeat. It will feel like an endless spiral of defeat until you manage to pull things together just right and make it over that obstacle that seemed insurmountable your last hundred attempts. Thus, with each small success comes a feeling of elation and the thought that maybe, just maybe, you are good enough to make it through this gauntlet after all.
Aside from the thirty or so main track challenges, there are also a handful of skill-specific games. Each of these will have you focus on one particular element in order to achieve a high score as opposed to reaching a set finish line. A few of these include: riding inside a steel cage ball as it rolls along a track in accordance with the momentum you impose on it; bailing from your exploding bike with the aim of flinging your rider the greatest distance; slowly traversing a track while towing a cart loaded with extremely sensitive explosives; or endlessly climbing a near vertical slope to reach the greatest height. The enjoyable thing about these games of skill is that they prominently display the highest score or distance achieved by your friends, via the game selection leaderboards and in-game markers. The constant presence of those markers especially helps to foster continual competition.
Trials also includes a track editor mode but only lets creators share with those on their friends list. As such, this feature probably should have been left out and more developer tracks included.
You may have heard word of mouth comparisons between this game and Excitebike. However, Trials seems to have more in common with Sonic the Hedgehog and, due to its inherent “try, fail, repeat” nature and its physics based game play, it falls more in line with a game like N+. While vastly different in aesthetics, it ultimately requires the same mindset with the way you approach the game and how you feel while playing it.
If you were just looking for a current-gen Excitebike-esque experience, this may not be the ride for you. On the other hand, if you relish this type of maddening game play and the seesaw feeling of overwhelming stress against triumphant joy, then let the tribulations begin.