In my insatiable quest to achieve gold medals on every track, I’ve suffered a substantial amount of game rage… and yet after each success, no matter how insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I get a rage-quelling sense of relief that sort of justifies the expletives and voice-cracking yelps of fury. The continuously grand feeling of instant gratification and reward in the wake of every infuriating puzzle-solving endeavour is vindication of how ultimately worthwhile and rewardingly tumultuous an experience like Trials Evolution is, a game that serves to knock you down but subsequently make each success all the more meaningful.
Gold requires no faults; no game before Trials Evolution has given the ‘Select button’ such an important purpose. The ‘B button’ resets you to the last checkpoint but more importantly, in trying to achieve the best possible scores and beat your friends, pressing Select and starting the track again can be as vital as the (accelerate) right and (brake) left triggers. Red Lynx must be aware that the single player is exponentially increased in size by latter level retries and the pursuit of perfection. As you race your dirt bikes across the wildly varied track terrains, Red Lynx are more than inclined to throw a lot of hazards and obstructions your way. Achieving ‘grade’ licenses in the form of one-off tutorial-like tracks will allow you access to better bikes but consequentially harder (and often lengthier) tracks.
The compulsion to do more than just finish is what will make or break the purchase for people: if there are friends to compete with and scores to beat/settle, even the least competitive of people may find themselves perched on the edges of seats, tongues firmly between teeth. The well-implemented online component lets you experience first-hand and in real-time the staple competitive edge that a Trials game thrives on, and ultimately your enjoyment will be affected by how persistent you are and how much you enjoy playing competitively. Evolution can feel a tad hollow if there aren’t names of XBL friends hovering around you as you furiously traverse each track in often desperate attempts to shave the necessary milliseconds off and if you’re of the casual gamer persuasion, the far more tasking later levels may provide a sizeable impasse that only several presses of the ‘B button’ can remove.
That said, the track designs in Evolution are some of the best and most intelligent seen in Trials games and the single-player design is created in such a way so as to not so easily alienate tentative trials racers. Trial and error is still the best way forward but now more than ever, with impressively seamless transitions from failure to repeat attempt, mistakes can be easily repented and particular tasking track designs can be overcome with foresight.
Jumping online may see you fare better if the single player becomes too overwhelming – which to many, myself included, will be an inevitability that deserves to be tackled in chunks – and racing online is a sensible and more relaxing alternative. Playing an individual track on your own can be a huge time-sink if you’re looking to perfect it, whereas racing others online replaces the methodical puzzle-solving element with a slightly heightened sense of urgency. Checkpoints will be used far more often; you will crash more too but you won’t feel as frustrated by this (unless your opponent goes on to win). The playlist system, which lets you play up to seven tracks at once in a points-based Cup format – and activate the hilarious controlled bailouts, which can lead to wonderfully silly last-gasp finales – is a good one, with medals gone and the intensity of the single player watered down in favour of a party atmosphere.
That party atmosphere is most prevalent in the Custom Track section of Trials Evolution, where several tracks don’t even feature trial bikes and the community really gets a chance to shine. The track editor actually used by Red Lynx features in the game and there’s potentially so much more to do in Evolution should you master the Pro version of the editor and create tracks as zany and wild as some that the game’s developers have come up with. From 2D top-down arcade shooter to FPS to Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride parodies, the custom tracks are a recreational distraction from the serious undertone coursing through the campaign.
The several referential tracks and the often hilariously tongue-in-cheek custom tracks that are about as far removed from the typical Trials formula as possible are exceptionally fun. The intelligent ghost design that provides hovering names to tail or goad you on, a few particular sublime tracks scattered across the single-player campaign and the ability to build your own special contribution to the online track compendium are just a few of the several convincing arguments made in favour of labelling Trials Evolution one of the best games so far this year.
The disappointingly uninspiring soundtrack and the minimal amount of local co-op tracks are but small scuffs on an otherwise pristine package. Evolution is ‘Like New’, a new chapter in a beautifully frustrating, well-established series that continually offers unparalleled time-sink distraction and addictive gameplay. While a fiendishly difficult game at times, Evolution is still a must-have, must-buy, must-play game.