Luke spends his time playing video games, binge-watching TV and hanging out with his German Shepherd, Ziggy and Bernese Mountain Dog Pandora.
Xbox One, PS4, PC,
February 26, 2019
The Trials series has always proven to be a lot of fun, particularly memorable for its zany courses and incredibly high difficulty for those who want to achieve high scores and perfect no-fault runs. Best described as a motorbike racing platformer, you must navigate over-the-top and unreal obstacles without crashing and dying, which is still the heart of the franchise’s newest addition, Trials Rising. While the creativity in the tracks has been dialled up to 11, some puzzling progression decisions keep it from being as continuously addictive as its predecessors.
For the uninitiated, Trials is about driving your bike across a 2D level, with accelerate, brake and the shifting of your riders weight left or right the only controls you need to worry about. Courses are never as simple as just accelerating and going as fast as you can though. Each track has been meticulously designed to include elements that must be carefully tackled, with the balance and positioning of your bike essential to making it to the finish line.
While there are some more traditional obstacle courses, it’s the ridiculous ones that stand out and make Trials Rising burst with creativity and colour. A Hollywood movie set with giant aliens on a blue-screen, a course entirely set on a runaway train and another that’s high in the sky in an aircraft that is falling apart are just a few of the standouts, with plenty of tracks containing lots of moving parts to keep things interesting.
Trials Rising won’t be winning any awards for its visuals, but it pops with colour and there’s a lot of depth in the backgrounds and plenty of smaller details that stand out while you’re riding along. It’s the prettiest game in the series so far if only because it is by far the most elaborate. I would love to be a fly on the wall in a brainstorming session when the developers are coming up with these ideas – they’re just freakin’ nuts. It makes it all the more satisfying when you’re able to complete a course and get a gold medal on the first attempt.
Unlocking new tracks is tied to your player level, and while the first several hours had a steady flow of new courses being unlocked without any hassle, Trials Rising does hit a frustrating point where levelling up takes a bit of time and experience, requiring you to go back to previous tracks and complete Sponsor Contracts. These challenges range from the basic and achievable, like completing tracks in a certain time limit, to the downright difficult, like completing 15 front flips, 30 meters worth of wheelies and doing so without any faults whatsoever.
It does make you change up the way you play, having to add in extra flare and another layer of difficulty to proceedings; but when some courses are already tricky to finish just in their basic state, adding in these extra challenges makes the game pretty infuriating. I wish that I could get rewarded just for getting faster times on tracks like in previous Trials games, because there’s a grind to Rising that sometimes left me unmotivated to continue, especially when it feels like you are being actively taunted for not getting the best time on every occasion.
Progression aside, the smartest addition to Trials Rising is the University of Trials, a clever training course that goes through the fundamentals you’ll need to play, along with the more advanced requirements such as bunny-hopping or landing safely on uneven surfaces. I always felt like I was a out of my depth in previous Trials games, like the elusive gold medals would forever be out of reach as I wasn’t skilled enough, but University of Trials actually made me feel like I could practice and have a fighting chance.
“…University of Trials actually made me feel like I could practice and have a fighting chance.”
There’s also a detailed level editor, which is designed for people far more creative than I, with a seemingly endless amount of possibilities in terms of course creation. I can’t wait to see what the community is able to come up with in the coming months, providing even more challenges to complete on top of the games already included 100+ tracks. Another new addition is the Tandem Bike, which requires two of you to be skilled enough to not only navigate the tricky course but to do so in sync. It’s about as crazy as it sounds, but does prove to be a lot of fun.
There is also some customisation which I didn’t spend a lot of time with, mostly because the loot crates (yes, those damn loot crates) that frequently pop up didn’t have much that was very interesting. It’s mostly stickers, with a lot of double-ups of previously received items like changes to your bike or rider, but I found the rewards boring enough that at one point I had about 18 of them unopened. The best thing I can say about them is that they’re entirely inessential with no impact to gameplay, so I’m fine that they exist in the background for those who care.
Trials Rising successfully builds on the strong foundation its built over the years to come back strong with a large range of creative, wacky courses that push the limits of creativity and fun. It is a shame that the game hits a point where grinding through frustrating challenges is a necessity to progress, but it’s still enjoyable just jumping into a track you like and trying to master it by getting a better time. With University of Trials making it more accessible than ever before and an online community that can and will build new courses, there’s lots of positive aspects to ensure the longevity to Trials Rising in the future.