Trials Fusion (Xbox 360) review
"Once again, RedLynx has succeeded in devouring my free time."
Reviewing Trials Fusion is a bit more difficult than I thought it would be.
Let me start from the beginning. My introduction to the Trials series of platform racing games came two years ago, with Trials Evolution. I volunteered to review that title on a whim, not having any idea of what I was in for, and soon found myself completely enthralled in the twitchy, sweaty-palms sort of way I fondly recall experiencing with classic NES games in my youth. I constantly worked to improve my times on courses, to get better medals to move up on the leaderboards and to unlock more difficult tracks. Topping it all off was the giddy feeling that, because I stepped outside my gaming comfort zone and tried something new, I had found a game I would enjoy for a long time.
With Trials Fusion, there's no way I could replicate that feeling. I knew what I'd be getting and I was looking forward to it since I'd first seen it announced. There would be no pleased surprise -- just an expectation of excellence without compromise. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to praise Fusion with the same awe-tinged jubilation that Evolution earned. Instead, the vibe for the day is contentment. After a certain period of time with Evolution, I'd achieved the best I could without probably devoting all my free time to improve on the hardest of its tracks, so I stopped playing it, with only a brief return to download its two DLC packs. After spending only a few minutes with Fusion, I felt like I had returned home after a long absence.
The basics are the same here as they were in Evolution. You control a motorcyclist going through a vast array of tracks, with the main goal being to get from the start to the finish as quickly as possible without crashing. While there are plentiful checkpoints on each course, so that a player can usually make it through tracks by persistence if skill isn't getting the job done, you'll need to improve in order to access tougher challenges. You receive medals for finishing races and still better medals (which count for more) for doing so quickly and without making mistakes. Collect enough medals and you unlock superior bikes and more difficult collections of tracks. As with its predecessor, I found my progress in Fusion periodically stalled when I'd have to go back to earlier courses to improve my medal ranking in order to unlock the next of the game's eight groupings.
At the Beginner level where you'll start play, the courses are simple and it's pretty easy to go through them at full speed, making giant leaps because there aren't many tricky obstacles to send your bike flying. Advance through Easy, Medium and Hard all the way to Expert and you'll have to be pretty proficient just to finish a track, let alone actually see a silver or gold medal. The great thing is that the difficulty curve feels perfectly natural; as the challenges slowly grow tougher, the track layouts also become more intricate.
While itís safe to say that Fusion is more of an evolution of Evolution than it is a completely new entity, there are enough differences to keep the new release from simply feeling like the same game with new tracks. One superficial change is that this game takes place sometime in the future. The game's assorted bikes feel and control like their Evolution counterparts, but RedLynx took advantage of this new setting to create all sorts of fanciful backgrounds, while also providing a pair of A.I. voices occasionally chatting to you while you navigate courses and tutorials. I don't know if I'd say Fusion has the same sort of insane variety in track design that Evolution possessed, but as compensation, it looks better.
While I'm sure that the 360 version isn't as appealing as those offered for PS4 and Xbox One, it still looks much nicer than Evolution, with the levels just seeming more vibrant and shiny. It also adds a few new tricks. After playing through a number of courses, you unlock the ability to perform motocross tricks from your bike with the right analog stick. In fact, a handful of courses are built around this feature. Your goal in those cases will be to score as many points as possible off tricks before reaching the finish line, with your score determining your medal. Even later, ATVs enter the fray with their own tracks, giving you a different kind of vehicle to master.
Unfortunately, there aren't enough courses included in Fusion to properly explore all the good stuff packaged in the Live Arcade offering. If I have one complaint about this game, it's that while Evolution came packaged with 60 or so tracks, there only are about 45 here, along with returning elements such as tournaments (collections of tracks that must all be completed, one after the next, for medals) and the multi-player events. However, what content is provided does have more replay value than previous games possessed.
Each level features three challenges a player can complete for additional experience points, which are used to gain levels to unlock alternate uniforms for your character to wear. Many of these challenges simply involve you racing in a particular manner, doing things like completing a certain number of flips on a run, performing a specific trick at the right time or finishing a clean run without letting up on the gas. Others are trickier to find and involve you discovering warp zones and other well-hidden surprises. One interesting example involves a tennis court located in the middle of a particular track. Odds are you won't notice anything special about this place -- it's just a minor set-piece that you'll likely blast through, barely registering its existence unless you wreck near or on it. But if you stop your bike on the court and wait, you'll be taken from the race to play a game of tennis against a penguin, with experience bestowed upon you if you win. Thatís neat stuff, RedLynx, neat stuff.
Although a lot of the multiplayer and online features hadn't yet been enabled while I was playing Fusion for the purpose of writing this review (heck, leaderboards hadn't been activated during my first session, so I have a lot of tracks to replay in order to post winning times to the servers), I still probably should mention the Track Editor feature because its success will be the determining factor in whether this becomes known as simply a very fun game or an awesome, life-devouring obsession. While I never fiddled with the building of tracks or skill games in Evolution, I spent a lot of time downloading and playing the creations engineered by others. Some were the shoddy work of amateurs. Some were made by obviously talented people, but marred by a reliance on gimmicks and special effects. Still others were sweet enough they wouldn't have looked out of place in the actual game. If Fusion can boast the same sort of community involvement its predecessor (which still is getting new user-made tracks) has been blessed with, the sky is the limit.
There's this nagging voice in the back of my head that wonders if the developers at RedLynx noticed just how successful Evolution's community was at creating great tracks and decided to include fewer of their own this time around, since they know their fans will be more than willing to pick up the slack. And I do have to admit I would have liked a larger assortment, as I was able to blast through five of the eight collections of tracks in roughly two hours of play. However, my optimism for the future keeps me from feeling too much disappointment at this.
What makes reviewing Trials Fusion more difficult than anticipated, I think, is that it is both fun and well-designed and ought to be rated highly for that, even if its volume of content feels sparse compared to its predecessor. Its lasting success is difficult to determine right now, though, because thatís something the creative community will have to decide over time. Fortunately, if Evolution is any indication, the Trials community will ensure that I keep playing on a near-daily basis to not only improve my performance on the game's existing tracks, but also to pour hour after hour into fan-made tracks, seeking out that next five-star diversion to grab my attention.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 16, 2014)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
If you enjoyed this Trials Fusion review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!