• Trials HD - Header

    Gamers of a certain age might remember a slightly rubbish BBC2 TV series called Kick Start. It featured a variety of obstacle-strewn challenges which riders had to negotiate on highly specialised trials motorbikes. The junior version of the programme was particularly funny because there was something quite satisfying about seeing posh kids falling on their bonces off high slippery logs.

    I digress. Kick Start was the inspiration for two superb little games back in the 8-Bit era, written by Shaun Southern, and featuring the bum-wigglingly catchy tune that was the programme’s theme.

    That tune is pretty much the only thing missing from Trials HD, a new Xbox Live Arcade release that forms part of Microsoft’s “Summer of Arcade”.

    Though the game’s not new (it first appeared on PCs quite some time ago and also spawned a superb sequel), this is the first time we’ve seen it on consoles and rather than just doing a straight port of the game, Red Lynx have taken all of the successful elements, improved them a thousand fold, and delivered one of the best looking 360 games – and certainly a lead contender for Game of the Year.

    Revving up

    Trials HD is a relatively simple idea. Go from left to right on your highly tuned trials bike, negotiating obstacles, ramps and dangerous hazards. The controls are purposely kept simple but don’t be fooled, they’re actually quite subtle. Right trigger is your throttle, left trigger is your brake, and the left analogue stick on the 360 controller changes your rider’s stance and position, allowing you to shift your weight around the bike for balance.

    Mastering these controls is the key to success – and the game starts out by giving you a brief tutorial on how to tackle the first easiest set of levels. In race mode, there are several levels of expertise to master, and the speed that you traverse a level (and the number of times you fall off) are key to winning the top honours and a bronze, silver or gold medal.

    Winning gold in race mode will unlock more challenges, other difficulty levels and various bike upgrades so you can end up with an absolute beast of a 600cc trials bike if you’re particularly good at the game.

    Going at each level hell for leather will only reap limited rewards, and when you start playing this highly addictive game you’ll soon be thankful that the Xbox 360 trigger controls are analogue, and quite good at transposing subtle movements from your fingertips to your onscreen presence. On some levels you will need to time your rider’s movements perfectly in order to “bunnyhop” your bike over nasty edges and drops. At other times you’ll need to go full pelt down a ramp in order to get up enough speed to perform a spectacular jump. Level design is absolutely superb, and Red Lynx have shown just what’s possible with the game’s mix of objects…and here’s the best bit, if you think you can do better you can have a go with the game’s built-in level editor and prove it.

    Building a better mousetrap

    The editor is a work of art. It’s so easy to use and in simple mode, you can place any of the in-game objects in 3D space and manipulate them in any 3D plane in order to build the most fiendishly complex levels imaginable. A handy “level object complexity” meter will keep an eye on how much you can cram into a level but as you’ll see in race mode, some quite spectacular stuff can be made. Red Lynx have stressed that anything you see in the game can be built in the editor and you’ll believe them once you start to use it.

    It’s just a shame that the Trackmania boys never got their game onto consoles because if it ended up anything like this, it’d be superb.

    Trials HD user-created levels can then be uploaded and shared with other players, or you can download their efforts and try to beat their best times. This level of community-based interaction adds another brilliant angle to a game that’s already got plenty going for it.

    And we’re still not done yet!

    Challenge Anneka

    Trials HD also features championships (a collection of tracks from race mode to net you even more rewards and unlockables) and challenges, which are fiendishly designed minigames to test your mettle. Challenge Mode scores are compared against players on your friends list, in fact the whole game does a very nice job of reminding you just how hopeless you are at games compared to your friends – because in Race Mode you’re shown a constant reminder of your position / speed in comparison to other players on your friends list who’ve mastered a level, and in Challenge Mode you’re shown markers and scores that show how successful your friends have been at getting top honours. Again, this meshing together of the Live Community puts other bigger and better funded games to shame and shows that Red Lynx have seriously though about how to make the game appeal to the players they’re aiming it at.

    For 1200 points you might think Trials HD is a little on the pricey side, but believe me it’s worth every penny and I had no qualms about paying my own money for this as soon as it appeared on the Xbox Live Marketplace. It’s got plenty of depth and challenge, and the difficulty curve is nicely paced. Along with the level editor, it’s a game that ensures you’ll be playing into the wee small hours and probably dreaming about it when you do finally collapse exhausted into your bed at night. Simply put, Trials HD is one of the best Xbox Live Arcade titles ever, and a seriously nice showcase for the machine too.

    Score: 9/10

    About The Author

    • Ugh it’s sickening! The person in those gameplay videos is too damned good at the game by far 🙂

    • caserrr

      First off, this whole review sounds like it was written by someone who only read a list of features, then spouted them off in a more drawn out way.

      The level editor is (while technically amazing and very easy to use) is next to useless. You can only share levels with people on your friends list (and even then, ive heard only when theyre online, in the game, but i cant confirm that). Being able to share, but only among friends pretty much decimates (the word limits is not nearly strong enough) any value to the very possibility of being able to download user-made tracks (not to mention is pretty crushing to any inspiration to spend a whole bunch time building a great track to share with what, a few people at most?). With the “Build and share tracks, and download user-made tracks!!!” being such a selling point of this game, its pretty retarded for you to mot even mention that it’s only among friends

    • Peej

      First off, you’re wrong – I grabbed it as soon as it went live, and played every section of it – and as we don’t get preview code ahead of time, a timely review is worth more than playing a game for 2 weeks solid then putting something out when everyone’s moved on to bigger better things (I’m flattered that you thought I’d nailed all the features though because I paid for this out of my own pocket and didn’t have the luxury of a big fat press release to crib from).

      Secondly, what can I say? You’re right, I didn’t mention that the track sharing is localised – and perhaps if this had been a bigger budget non XBLA release, Red Lynx would’ve included the option to populate a server with your tracks and offer them out to the whole world – as it stands, I had 28 people on my friends list all playing this the other night so that’s potentially 28 people who I could play or share tracks with (in fact having that many friends with the game is a bit sucky in some ways as they’ve all overtaken my challenge mode scores, the brats!)

      Sorry the review didn’t tinkle your ivories in this instance, but this is a stunning game and lines up alongside Splosion Man and Battlefield 1943 as one of the best releases on the Xbox Live Arcade. Here’s hoping Red Lynx port their offroad buggy racer that’s similar to this – and perhaps maybe, even maybe, patch in the facility to share your creations with the rest of the world.

    • Peej, first class review for a first class game. It’s amazing how addictive this game gets and how utterly brilliant the level design is.

    • Cheers Phil…Have to say I’m becoming addicted to the level designer part of this. The way you can manipulate physics for individual object makes for some potentially hilarious set pieces. Trying to tweak my own level that has the player being chased by a giant Indiana Jones-style ball that’s triggered at one part of the level. Go too slow and you end up being squished.

      That aside, Caserr’s comments are true in that you really can only share home-grown tracks with friends when they’re online – but once you’ve downloaded them you keep them on your Hard Drive and can play them at your leisure, so it’s not all bad. You can even edit their efforts too.

      Have to say, with this taking up vast chunks of my time, and Shadow Complex due this week, the Summer of Arcade has been a blimmin’ good one so far, even if the actual summer hasn’t!

    • One last thing about the editor. Your friends don’t actually have to be online in order for you to grab their shared tracks. So tracks are being stored centrally somewhere. You can download them at any time once your friends have shared them, edit them, play them and basically try to gold-medal them.

      Tracks in editor mode seem to be a fair amount shorter than normal tracks (either that or I’m just not able to pack as much into mine as the developers obviously did!) but even so, I’ve come up with some rather fiendish ways to ensure no one gets a clear run at the ones I’ve built.

      So good, and so addictive.

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    • damo

      do i have to be online to play trails hd downloaded it 2 my hardrive at a freinds but sadly i cant play it

    • Nice share, thanks