I am a very calm person. I feel confident that if a survey was conducted among those closest to me regading my personal attributes words like calm, relaxed or the dozen other laid back synonyms would be frequent mentions. I hardly ever raise my voice-let alone in anger-and outside of a few school yard shuffles from my flaming youth, I never get aggressive with others.
All this is said to help you understand when I say Trials Evolution makes me want to find the nearest dirt bike owner and punch him square in his mullet head you believe me. Trials Evolution is a roller-coaster of frustrating lulls and rewarding peaks; the severity of both is largely unmatched in gaming. This is one ofthe most abusive yet finest games to be released in any form in 2012.
Picking up from the previous Xbox Live Arcade Trials HD (and the sizable handful of PC releases before that), Trials Evolution tasks players with navigating a track worth of jumps, obstacles, elevators and balance beams on the most skiddish motorcross bikes imaginable. Understanding and having deep respect for the game's physics-in addition to a health dose of self restraint with the accelerator trigger- are the keys to successfully crossing that checkered pole in record time. The game certainly lives up to the expectation of it's name; as map familiarity and a bit of clinched jaw trial and error are beyond essential to achieve faultless gold medals tucked away at the end of every event. Luckily, most tracks within Trials Evolution can be completed in a mere matter of minutes--with the sole exclusion being the antithetical Gigatrack which spans a good dozen or so of minutes and really kills the otherwise refreshing speedy pace.
Outside of the typical dust laden dunes expected out of any other motorcross title, Trials Evolution offers up a surprising quantity of different track themes to keep the experience well lubercated. Included are homages to other Xbox Live titles such as Limbo and 'Splosion Man, a tribute Christopher Nolan's blockbuster hit Inception and a decidedly Michael Bay-ian exploding bridge.
If the fifty plus tracks included are not enough to sate your need for masochism, Trials Evolution ships with two variations of a track editor. The basic track editor will be ample for most, but the freedom achieved in advanced mode is breathtaking for the creative bent gamer out there. The difference between the two is like Microsoft Paint compared to Photoshop...or a four function calculator versus a pristine scientific calculator. Developer Redlynx is doing a quality job a week into release with curating custom tracks and marketing them through the in-game download front.
Earning higher honors on each event helps propel the career mode; unlocking the next, more difficult, set of tracks and granting you shots at new high powered motorcycles through the game's License Tests--pseduo-tutorials that help introduce more advance techniques such as bunny hopping and weight distribution management. Players also earn cash which is used to purchase personalized stat-less gear for customization purposes.
Trials Evolution controls are simplistic; triggers to gas and brake and left analog to tilt the weight of your rider. Harking to the age old "Easy to Learn, Impossible to Master" mantra of the long-past arcade days, Trials Evolution will not be an easy ride. Often times I found myself revising my strategy every fifth or so track. I'd beat the need to relax on the accelerator into my psyche with batted breath only to find myself later focusing on tire alignment on landing a few stages later. It's certainly a touch maddening, but the sudden dopamine releasing rush of achieving that second-faster lap time makes Trials Evolution a near peerless test of grit.
Finally, Trials Evolution offers the first crack at online simultaneous multiplayer to good results. Up to five players online (or four through local splitscreen) compete in a set of either three, five or seven events earning points based solely on speed of track completion. Other than forgoing requirements on number of checkpoint restarts, little about the core gameplay changes. It is something I personally do not see myself returning to right away, but a group of friends--with deathwishes--will get a kick out of it.
Trials Evolution is a sharp looking title in it's own right, though it never quite manages to blow you out of the proverbial water. Compared to the 2008 predecessor, Trials Evolution is an assured upgrade with richer details of background environments and eye catching physics on particularly painful bails. Despite never dropping a single frame of the 60 per second, the game is saddled with copious amounts of screen tearing, especially online. Performance issues are a bummer, but they never break the experience.
A special bit of public shaming need to be performed in regards to the game's audio facet. In game sound effects and exaggerated whails of the digital daredevils are fine, but the rap-thrash metal music selection makes me want to land head first at full speed. Look, there is no accounting for taste. Some may dig the score...but I think we can all agree that the joke rap upon every boot up of Trials Evolution makes me slam down the "A" button with demonic furry, despite knowning it will do nothing to speed up the process. It's so painfully bad, that some might find it funny the first few times. Trust me, it gets excruciatingly old soon.
Some gamers will find Trials Evolution to steep of an incline to jump. The trial and error nature of the gameplay leads to frequent reassessment of skills and strategy that the patient (or plain insane) will cherish and be rewarded handsomely in medals and bikes. Nothing is insurmountable in Trials Evolution and the aforementioned sense of accomplishment is fantastic. For fifteen dollars, those hooked will have a meaty experience to chew through especially if RedLynx keeps up the stellar job of promoting community custom maps in addition to their freebie download track packs.
Nothing, outside of previous entries in the series, comes close to matching Trials Evolutions pure gaming delight. It's a gamer's game. Little in the way of panache or hand holding and very rewarding to the dedicated. Those who can overcome a few technical issues and a steep mastery curve should rev their engines and pick this one up from Xbox Live Arcade as soon as possible.