It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where Trials: Evolution belongs on the spectrum of perspective genres. When I think of Trials: Evolution, I am immediately reminded of those flash games I would play as a youth in which I’d have to traverse an obstacle course while riding a bicycle or monster truck. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had that in mind. Trials: Evolution is the sequel to Trials HD, a wildly popular XBLA title from a few years back. Trials: Evolution turns this flash phenom into a full fledged game that reminds me why you can look no further than XBLA for the most worthwhile downloadable experience.
Leaving the usual huddled spaces of Trials HD’s warehouses, Evolution bursts from that barrier and brings you to the great outdoors. Amazingly, the set piece variety in the lengthy single-player are staggering. A haunted castle and floating collection of islands are just some of the fascinating environments available in this sequel. RedLynx upped the flashy-ness meter by a few levels, with living environments and tons of explosions. At the end of each track, you watch your drive die a horrible death in fantastic HD. There are some imperfections though, I saw an annoying amount of texture pop in.
Trials: Evolution takes that classic flash game formula and streamlines it into a fantastic physics based platformer. With only the ability to hit the gas and lean, you are expected to conquer obstacle courses that vary from the simple to the near mindnumbing. There is a fair (enough) difficulty curve, but Trials: Evolution gets wickedly hard towards the end of the campaign. After collecting enough medals for getting the best times on courses, you unlock new licenses. Taking license tests will teach you game mechanics that you will need to know to complete the next set of levels. Completing these tests also unlock faster, but more chaotic bikes to use. The only issue is that on some levels you are forced to use faster bikes due to the obstacles.
Completing tracks earns you medals, which further unlock more stages and games. Depending on how you perform, you’ll get bronze, silver or etc. The goal is to complete it not only in a timely manner, but also without crashing (which the game calls faults). This can create super OCD traits within players like myself, who will continually restart tracks over and over in order to get a gold. When the game increases in difficulty, a goal emerges to master both the game’s physics, and the insanely hard tracks in order to come out on top, and then brag with the scores to your Trials playing friends. Performing better on tracks earns you cash that you can then spend in the in-game store. This aspect was pretty disappointing. A Saints Row 3 level of customization would’ve been nice, but instead the game opts for boring motorbike gear.
After you’ve exhausted the game’s plentiful built-in tracks, you can take the fun online for the surprisingly fleshed out multiplayer modes. Up to four racers compete Excitebike style. The person who gets to the end first with the least amount of faults (which add time to your final score) wins the round. Levels vary from preset multiplayer courses to playing single-player game levels. These contests are extremely fun, regardless of whether you are winning or losing. After winning, you earn experience points that amass you points to gain levels. The levels don’t amount to much, but the addictive gameplay is what kept me coming back.
My favorite part of the Trials: Evolution experience though by far (which is saying a lot), is the fantastic user-created content. Trials: Evolution has some of the most awesome, creative, and extreme user content of any game I’ve ever played, including LittleBigPlanet. The entire pro level editor is available from the start and players can get as detailed as they desire. This results in some true works of art, and plenty of ”how did they even make this” moments. Considering Trials: Evolution’s success, it goes without saying that the currently growing library of great games will stay that way.
Something worth mentioning, however, is that Trials: Evolution has one of the worst soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Filled with grunty punk-metal, it sounds pretty close to someone trying to cough up a hairball while seizuring on a guitar. It’s really disturbing. I cannot stress enough playing this game with the music turned off. Play something of yours over it.
Trials: Evolution is now my favorite XBLA game. I wake up every morning with confidence knowing that I can log onto the game’s track lists and download something absolutely awesome. It beckons me to come back and try to beat my high-scores and to try to conquer the over the top “Extreme” level course. The multiplayer modes make it a ton of fun to play with friends. The party never seems to end with Trials: Evolution. It’s simple formula and never ending stream of content will make it the best pick up and play game I own. If you had any doubts about XBLA, then this game will change your mind.