Downloadable titles have really started coming into their own, and the latest flurry of titles has proven that you don’t have to spend $120+ on a decent gaming experience. Splosion Man, Monkey Island: SE and Shadow Complex have all shown themselves to be worthy of purchase, but only one title has really exploded within the ButtonMasher community and brought everyone together in a surge of competition, frustration and joy, and that title is Trials HD.
I had heard absolutely nothing about Trials HD before it released, I didn’t know there were motorbikes in it, I didn’t know there were previous titles to the series, and I didn’t know that it is based on an actual sport out there (although I doubt they have highly explosive boxes of dynamite littering their tracks. Upon starting it up I was quick to judge this as a 5 minute blast that I would get bored of and never turn back on, but boy was I wrong.
The main game is structured around getting your bike from point A to point B as fast and as safely as possible. With checkpoints cleverly scattered along the way you will never find yourself in a position where you have to struggle through more than one obstacle at a time, and a quick press of the B button will send your rider back to the nearest checkpoint. The challenges range from Easy to Extreme, and while most people should be able to make their way through to the end of Hard without too much anger, the Extreme tracks really are only for the completionist and the trained.
Getting through to the final track really isn’t the aim of the game though, and the replayibility doesn’t come in the form of trying to better your score, more than it is about trying to beat the scores of the people on your friends list. Every single time you race you are given a small indicator at the top of the screen that shows your closest rival. Overtake him and it’ll show you the next best friend on your list. This passive style of online play is something we haven’t seen too much of, and can lead to all kinds of frustration as well as exhilaration. Get a better time but reset yourself more often than the guy that sits next to you at work and get be prepared to hear about it later, but at the same time, being able to jump online to let your other friends know about your latest conquests just to hear their tears in virtual text form is a joy unto itself. The only suggestion I’d have here is some kind of notification system that lets you know when your scores have been beaten by people from your friends list. Also, knowing you don’t have to turn on your 360 the same time as your friends to compete is definitely something I want to see more of.
And just when you thought that the 50+ stages were more than enough to keep you going, you gradually unlock a bunch of mini-games (and tournaments) that will surely test your patience and utilise all the things you have slowly learnt through the duration of the game. How long can you stay on top of a giant metal ball, how long can you stay upright inside the same giant ball, how long can you stay off your front wheel, and how far can you tow that trailer of explosives? There is something for everyone in the list of mini-games, and you’re sure to find something that you can do better than everyone on your friends list. Just don’t forget to jump into our forums and brag about it.
Graphically I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting Trials HD to look and play as well as it did. The last time I played a title that was anything similar to the gameplay found here was about 5 years ago with a PC title called Elastomania. Bright green landscapes and giant red floating apples to collect on the way was something that quickly was erased from my mind. I had found the addictive younger brother of Elastomania and it looked great. The 2.5D style really enabled the developers to work on making things looking as good as possible (as we have seen in both littlebigplanet and Shadow Complex) once the physics had been tuned to perfection. And perfection is what you will find here.
I hate to sound so certain and definite, but this is a game that everyone with a friends list should own. You WILL find hours disappear trying to beat that top time on that one level you feel you can ace. You WILL wonder where the weekend went as you restart over and over and over just to perfect that first bastard of a ramp purely so you can finish off King of the Hill with 3 less resets than Wugga. 1200 points seems to be the standard for XBLA titles these days, and if the quality continues to be as high as that found in Trials HD then it’ll all be worth it.
A huge amount of kudos goes to RedLynx for giving me a reason to renew my Gold subscription.