Oh Xbox Live Arcade, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There are so many good games coming out now even an indie snob like myself is satiated. We had the release of Fez a couple weeks ago (which will be the subject of another post) and now we have the release of another game that is slowly consuming me, Trials: Evolution.
Did you know that in Europe there is a sport that involves people on motorcycles riding on pipes that are swinging over ravines? I think it’s called Motocross? Well apparently this is what the new XBLA game Trials: Evolution is based on. Trials is a 2.5D game that is the spiritual successor to Excitebike. 2.5d meaning the character models and environments are in 3D while the gameplay exists on a 2D plane. The visual style of the game is a Tony Hawkish “cool” aesthetic meshed with a extreme silliness. I mean how “cool” can a motocross rider look when he flips over and over again only to land on his head and explode? In reality Trials: Evolution has more in common with Super Mario than Motocross.
There’s something magical about this game. It channels the old school platformers that tempted you with forward movement only to throw lava pits for you to fall in to at the last second. You’ll slam your fist in frustration while offending roommates with a string of vile expletives expressing your contempt for everything the game stands for all the while continuing to power through the same obstacle over and over and over again. Do you remember the angry trance of playing that speeder level in Battletoads? Well Trials: Evolution lets you play that bit over and over again and again. I know that doesn’t sound fun. I know that’s the reason you threw your NES out the window into that car that landed you in Juvenile Hall for 3 years. Look it will be okay, the quick respawn time, copious checkpoints and infinite lives won’t give you the chance to get up to pitch the accursed system out the window. It will force you to repeat the same goddamn jump over and over until you get it right. And when you finally cross the finish line, you get a satisfying spectacle as your character is killed in a unique and brutal way. The game designers took a tremendous amount of time designing unique death sequences for your rider. My favorite involves being immediately blown up, having your rider packed into a box by a forklift which then picks him up and deposits him on a shelf in a warehouse. The satisfying frustration of the gameplay followed by the release of seeing the rider being brutally killed is fucking sublime.
The game eases you into the difficulty, allowing you to learn how to play it before ramping up the difficulty you with Hard and then Extreme game modes. As of writing this I am still working on Gold medals for all the levels, which means fast times with no vaults, in order to unlock the Extreme modes. There is also a rich competitive multiplayer mode with unique tracks for players to race against each other both locally and remotely. The only real weakness I could find was the music, which is hilariously bad. The title screen rap, which the game forces you to listen to, is perhaps the worst thing ever recorded. I have a feeling that it’s a deliberate nod to not taking itself seriously at all.
TL;DR Trials: Evolution is a superb XBLA platforming game that will make you relive the most frustrating moments of your childhood.