Trials HD Xbox Live Review

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It’s a well known fact that the best puzzles – whether in video game form or not – are, at their foundations, simple ideas. Tetris is just about moving and rotating blocks. Sudoku pits you against a grid and the numbers one to ten. Of course, the way they get to be challenging is through various other conditions applied to them; time limits, lack of information, reaction times and the like. Video game puzzlers generally rely on logic, the player’s speed in reacting to what’s happening on screen, or a combination of both.

Trials HD is a prime example of the puzzle game formula; reaction times, logic and speed are all involved, albeit with a twist. There are no tiles, numbers or blocks – it’s all about moving a motorbike to the end of a course as quickly as possible, while navigating jumps and obstacles along the way.

It’s an odd mix, but it works very well. Although the environments are 3D, you only move in a 2D plane. Left and right, and up and down. Trials HD’s main mode of play – Race Mode – sees you pitted against a large selection of courses divided into Easy, Medium, Hard and Extreme difficulty levels. The first levels you’ll come across ease you in gently, letting you get used to the speed of the bikes, the sensitivity of controlling your mid-air position and leaning backwards and forwards to determine your landing position. It’s all very natural and the controls, while possibly feeling over-sensitive to begin with, are tweaked well.

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As you progress through the difficulties, you’ll see that Hard and Extreme really do mean just that, and Trials HD is one game where you’ll definitely be challenged. There are checkpoints that you pass as you go through each stage, letting you restart from them when you crash. You only have a set number of restarts though, and with the tight time limits in the Extreme levels, you could well lose your patience with the myriad of jumps, ramps, and other teeth-grindingly tricky areas to overcome.

What’s satisfying though is that if you do fail, it’s because of something you’re doing wrong – be it the wrong approach to an obstacle, or not quite moving the bike in right way to get enough air or distance on your jump. The game itself never gets in the way of you progressing; you’ll only fail because of something you’ve done (or haven’t done, as the case may be).

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The bikes will take time to get used to, but once you’ve accustomed yourself to the best way of taking off from a ramp, the optimum way to land and other such nuances, you’ll soon be able to compete for best time against your friends and the rest of the world online. There’s no multiplayer, but Trials HD is the kind of game time trialling was made for, and the competition involved in beating your friend’s time is a decent and addictive alternative. There are also a number of mini-games to unlock in the game’s Challenge Mode, all of which involve the bike in some way, be it attempting the most mid-air somersaults, or towing some explosives behind you and trying to reach the end of an obstacle-littered course without setting them off. These games can also be addictive high-score competitions.

If all of that wasn’t enough, there’s a fully-fledged course editor, letting you create and share online any courses you’ve designed using the in-game editor. It’s very comprehensive, and very easy to get to grips with as well, so there’s extra content available here in the form of downloading other people’s courses or making your own. It’s a feature that needn’t have been included, but the fact it has been, and so well to boot, is a great touch from RedLynx.

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There’s little to complain about in Trials HD. Replays, although available, don’t offer you anything besides just viewing your run through a course over again. There’s no multiplayer mode either, but then this isn’t really the kind of game a multiplayer element would work too well in. Also, the visuals and music aren’t great. The soundtrack is drum and bass, which does get repetitive, and the visuals are merely ok. If brown environments are your thing, you’re in luck here.

There aren’t many games that justify the 1200 MS points price-tag on XBLA, but Trials HD is one of them. It’s addictive, accessible, competitive, and there’s plenty to do. The negatives are very minor, and it’s a polished and complete package. One of the best XBLA games currently available.

9/10

by

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Version tested: Xbox Live

Developer: RedLynx

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Puzzle/Racing

Players: 1