To say that your plucky rider in Trials Evolution is a glutton for punishment would be quite an understatement. Over the course of my extensive playtime with the clinically-addictive Trials Evolution I've tossed the poor sap off towering buildings, impaled him on ill-timed, bone-snapping jumps and incinerated him with explosives. It's a wonder he has any bones left in his battered body.
And yet he's about to do it all over again in Origin of Pain, the first official DLC expansion pack for Trials Evolution from developer RedLynx that adds 36 new tracks, a new BMX bike and a host of new creation tools to an already packed package.
With a wealth of quality levels readily available from the community providing endless entertainment free of charge, which are now rightfully made more prominent in the main menu, I should add, on first glance you might question the viability of this DLC. It’s therefore a testament to RedLynx’s masterful level design that Origin of Pain's stages still manage to feel fresh and offer something new to Trials Evolution.
Presented as a separate map to the main Trials Evolution campaign, Origin of Pain’s new levels are situated on the tropical Payne Island, and there’s once again no shortage of variety. One minute you’re blistering through a colourful carnival, the next you’re exploring the ruins of a crumbling castle in one of the most visually dazzling levels yet, soaking in the rafts of an underground sewer, clambering over a capsized ship wreck, grinding up a rollercoaster and bouncing over a child’s play area. It’s an utterly captivating collection of levels with very little filler that often surpasses some of Trials Evolution’s most memorable levels in their sheer lunacy.
Adding to the variety is the Gecko 520, which is arguably Origin of Pain’s greatest asset. The added agility of the new pushbike makes it handle completely differently to the motorbikes in Trials Evolution, as the difference in weight and speed demands an entirely different strategy when judging jumps and hills. While it may lack the juicy acceleration of Trials Evolution’s traditional bikes, its lack of weight more than makes up for it, allowing you to gain some significant air when soaring over jumps.
Some levels can only be played with the Gecko 520, too, but it’s a shame you can’t use it in Trials Evolution’s existing levels. It’s almost certainly due to conflicting leaderboard issues (leaderboards are at least separated for those who don’t own Origin of Pain, though), but still a disappointing omission nonetheless.
The added silence as your rider comically pedals furiously also allows you to savour the new sombre soundtrack, comprising mostly of piano and orchestra-led tracks. It’s a more mature-sounding soundtrack compared to Evolution’s repulsive rap metal that felt jarringly out of place before.
Trials Evolution is renowned for its controller-crunching difficulty, and, unsurprisingly, Origin of Pain is no exception. Initially easing you in gently, the first dozen or so levels are easy two minute treks, but before long you're left hammering the restart button as you begin to remember why you abandoned Trials Evolution when the difficulty ramped up to seemingly impossible levels. Time to bring out the swear jar again, then.
But it’s the Extreme levels that once again cause the most aggravation. These were notorious in Trials Evolution for testing your patience in a way that few other games can, and the final three Extreme levels found in Origin of Pain will certainly challenge experienced players who won't rest until they achive gold on every level.
At the time of writing, I still can’t get past the final punishing level. Called Magic Marker, the concept is ingenious: here you ride through an empty 2D canvas as the route is sketched out with a marker pen in real-time. It soon becomes arduous, however, as the devastating difficulty and rudimentary sound effects begin to grate. Still, it just goes to show that RedLynx’s ingenuity knows no bounds.
Two additional skill games offer new and inventive ways to inflect pain onto your rider. The best of the bunch is undoubtedly Uphill Struggle, a new take on Trials HD’s Hill Climb whereby you must climb an increasingly steep slope whilst avoiding obstacles. Adrenaline Cannon, on the other hand, is a throwaway mini-game where you launch your hapless rider from a cannon with the aim to hit far away targets. With only two available, it's hard not to feel that more skill games could have easily been woven into Origin of Pain and they lack the imagination found in the main levels.
Rounding off Origin of Pain is a suite of new character customisation options and track creation tools, featuring over 100 new pieces to play with. Trials Evolution has spawned something of a LittleBigPlanet-esque community, who continually churn out wacky new levels that keep you coming back for more, so it’s encouraging to find RedLynx supporting the community with new tools whilst also releasing their own in-house levels.
Origin of Pain is the perfect excuse to get back on your bike and tackle Trials Evolution, and a potent example of DLC done right, with worthwhile content that expands the original game’s premise at a wallet-friendly price. Retailing for roughly the price of a lukewarm Big Mac at just 400 Microsoft points, it’s terrific value for money, especially when you consider how much people will pay for a few rations of COD's meatless map packs.
While Trials Evolution’s legion of experts will most likely blitz through Origin of Pain in a couple of hours, at least until they reach the Extreme levels, there’s more than enough content to justify the paltry price which makes it essential for existing owners of what is arguably one of the best titles available on XBLA. Just be prepared to fork out for another controller after you clench it too tightly and inevitably smash it to smithereens in frustration.