Put on your helmet, expose your gnarly scars and get ready to do something really stupid on a motorbike.
Trials HD is a physics based motorcycle racing game at its core. You are given a crazy track and are then challenged to complete it. Planning and thought are needed in order to achieve this however, making it less of a racing game and more of a puzzle game in my mind. Speed is still important, if the player wants to get any medals and the bragging rights amongst their friends, but being able to complete the track with as few mistakes as possible is the path to victory.
Anyone who has played Thrillville should remember the excellent Stunt Bike mini game (possibly the best part of the game?) The game involved getting from one end of a track to the other without falling off your bike. You had the ability to lean forward and back, which allowed you to try and maintain some balance on the bike. The tracks however consisted of near vertical climbs and sudden drops, bumps, loops and islands floating in midair. With you rider flopping around like a ragdoll, positioning your bike correctly for these obstacles was a lesson in patience and skill. RedLynx has created what could be seen as the next evolution of this game.
Trials HD starts you off on a few easy tracks and as you progress you unlock the more difficult tracks, along with new bikes and new minigames. The tracks rapidly go from being difficult to insanely hard in extreme mode. This is countered by the inclusion of checkpoints along the way. These checkpoints provide handy restart points should everything go pear shaped, as they are often placed after particularly tricky obstacles. However, using these checkpoints counts as a fault and tracks need to be finished with no faults for Gold and limited faults for Silver. To get all gold in this game means finishing each track with no faults. A daunting task indeed.
There are a number of different bikes to unlock, each with different handling. This will lead to the player going back to the earlier levels and trying to get a better time with a new bike. The bikes can be customised, as can the rider, allowing the player to achieve a unique look (although I don’t see the point in this). Also included is a track editor, allowing the player to create their own madcap levels and share them with their friends across Xbox Live.
The tournaments, that are unlocked as the player progresses, combine a number of tracks together. The players times are combined, along with their faults, to determine the award of a medal. The mini games are a welcome distration from the tracks though. They provide a different kind of gameplay, often scoring the player based on distance achieved or number of broken bones. These mini games are still included in the leaderboards though, so competition is still the primary force pushing the player forward.
What Trials HD does better than most, is the leaderboards. Each time you complete a level, the leaderboard will show how quickly others on your friends list have done that level, and with how many faults. Even whilst going through the level, you get to see the progress of your nearest rival. This takes the game to a whole new level of addictiveness. Without the leaderboards, Trials HD would be a fun distraction. The inclusion of the leaderboards, however, makes this game competitive, addictive and so frustrating. Imagine hurtling through a track and finishing it with no faults in a good time, only to find that your friend has beat you by half a second. Never before has a game compelled me to have “just one more try” so many times. Leave the game for a couple of days and you risk returning to find all of your hard earned scores beaten by each of your friends. Get to the later levels, and it becomes more about the least number of faults, forcing you to retry levels from the very beginning rather than from a checkpoint.Be warned, if you go to bed early, you will get to work the next morning to find some git has beaten your time by a tenth of a second.
Trials HD is one of the best games currently available on XBLA, combining a great game with an addictiveness that should be made illegal. The most fun, and frustration, I have had in a long time.