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Trials Evolution (Xbox 360) artwork

Trials Evolution (Xbox 360) review

"The result may not feel like a revolutionary update, but itís exactly the right way to pull off a quality Trials sequel."

Simply maintaining the status quo can be a risky approach where sequels are concerned. A good sequel must deliver new value on top of a familiar structure, all without drastically reworking the elements that drew someone to a franchise in the first place. Trials Evolution, the sequel to Trials HD, strikes just the right balance by retaining the simplicity of its physics-based predecessor and at the same time expanding beyond that solid base with new content. The result may not feel like a revolutionary update, but itís exactly the right way to pull off a quality Trials sequel.

Trials HD took place entirely within the confines of dreary warehouses, but Trials Evolution leaves behind the listless gloom of those storage facilities and embraces a more pleasant aesthetic with a diverse range of outdoor courses. The change in scenery cements the new effort as a console title, while leaving behind the franchiseís Flash-based origins and displaying a renewed sense of energy and purpose.

The simple core play remains unchanged: lean in and out, accelerate, and decelerate as you hang on and keep the bike horizontal. Thatís all. While the physics have been touched up slightly, they remain intuitive and familiar. What worked well the first time around continues to work. Every other part of the experience has simply been streamlined around the purpose of making the riding more tolerable.

Like its predecessor, Evolution focuses on the pursuit of the perfect run. It's all about besting your friendsí times and competing for superior placement on the leaderboards, while also placing well enough to obtain medals on every track. That challenge proves easy enough at first. Early courses consist of motocross standards, rolling dirt ramps and tracks expressly built for the purpose of riding. As you progress, however, all kinds of hazards begin to litter the track. Jumps become more perilous, the tracks more dynamic. The initial tracks hold true to the familiar formula established in the previous game, but new license tests provide buffer zones between difficulty spikes while explaining each of the fundamental nuances that players had to learn the hard way in Trials HD.

Trials Evolution improves its presentation as a way to keep players engaged even during its more monotonous moments. The game pulls ghost data attached to your friendsí superior times and allows you to race alongside those performances, thus making it easier to compare performances during actual races. That mechanic allows the game to work, despite any repetition. Your friends are represented only by dots, but the constant feedback keeps you focused on the leaderboards. Multiplayer modes add side-by-side races with no room for restarts. Thatís fun too, though public matches are slow to launch. Still, it seems that Trials Evolution is built primarily around the single-player experience; even when youíre alone it does a nice job of keeping things lively and competitive.

Given that apparent focus, it shouldnít come as a surprise that the single-player experience showcases the gameís greatest success. A futile exercise in self-punishment somehow is enjoyable, particularly since the increased variety prevents the main tracks from quickly losing their edge. As you conquer the 50 included tracks, youíll traipse over rustic islands in the sky, cut through a black and white backdrop inspired by fellow Xbox Live Arcade hit Limbo, and race through perception-shifting tracks. There also are diversions in the form of hit-or-miss circus skill games, as well, which highlight another point about RedLynxís design: the company is willing to throw everything out the window if the result is new value and more fun content. The extra modes utilize the new track editorís ability to follow different objects through the environment, besides just the bike. They serve as a reminder that hey, you can totally turn this game into a Marble Madness clone if thatís what youíd like.

Customization options allow for endless potential. The RedLynx-designed tracks were all created using the same tools available in the attached track editor, which allows the player to create tracks in an open world environment and then share them with friends. The editor comes in two flavors: Basic and Advanced. Whichever one you choose to use, there are ample opportunities to create. Some of the earliest samples, such as a RedLynx track that turns Trials Evolution into a first-person shooter, provide a glimpse of the editorís full range. Thereís real value there, especially for an XBLA release.

One downside to Trials Evolution is the obnoxious soundtrack. Kudos to RedLynx for recording a unique mix of rap metal and not relying on licensed tracks, but the selections available are inoffensive at best and embarrassing at their worst (ďThis is the m-m-m-moment youíve been waiting for/Nitro/Time Trials/Need I say more?Ē). Thereís an awkward, self-aware vibe that was clearly intentional, but the gameís music mostly works to its detriment.

Trials Evolution comes highly recommended, in spite of its minor flaws. It provides compelling exercise for high score chasers while boasting a structure for user-created content that rewards those who put their creative potential to use. The result, a thorough expansion of everything that made Trials HD click with so many people awhile back, proudly replaces its predecessor as one of the defining titles available on the Xbox Live Arcade.

Calvin's avatar
Freelance review by Calvin Kemph (April 27, 2012)

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