Released in the latter half of 2009, Trials HD caused quite a stir in the world of Xbox Live Arcade, part of a new generation of titles with a larger file size giving the options for far more detailed gaming experiences, while still buried within the simplistic nature expected of the XBLA environment. Though despite all of this attention it didn't grab me, I simply wasn't interested in playing it, but why? Bikes have always been heavily neglected in the racing genre, hardly receiving the kind of attention betrothed on their 4 wheeled counterpart. However my core misgiving would be the cover, that of a dirt rider, and it proves to me just how poorly the genre has been handled. Dirt biking is now almost entirely associated with mediocre, second rate arcade games with little or no aspiration to simulate the sport, nor provide an experience that gives any kind of feel familiar to the actual activity.
Barring that in mind my first go on Trials HD proved a startling surprise, wow these physics are good, really good. Failing dismally at first, I ride straight into a box of dynamite only to see my bike explode and rider flailing through the air. Hitting restart and I get it straight away, this is fun! But I'm getting ahead of myself, lets take it from the top.
There's no getting away from the fact that this all feels very Excitebike but there's far more here than you'd ever expect. Start the game and the Beginner levers work well to introduce players to the action on relatively simple levels with slower bikes, of course as you would expect, moving through the difficulty levels reveals ever more complex challenges. But it's when you get to the Hard levels things become tough, really tough and if you think those were hard the Extreme will blow your mind. It's at this point that the standard game mode crossed the line of fun into frustration, levels that are so difficult to master, the fun, the flow that made the early part of the game work so well, work so addictively has gone. Of course difficulty curves are always a creative aspect when implemented, some players will always have ridiculous amounts of excess talent, as we would say in arcade circles years ago “I bet there's a man in Japan that can do it”, certainly an appropriate comment, but overall difficulty will be the games greatest failing.
It doesn't all stop with the standard mode, become bored or frustrated and there are loads more options to keep you busy., from the Tournament challenges there are a wide range of skill based games. Riding inside massive steels balls to firing your rider off on ski's, carting bombs to riding up never ending super steel slopes. Again all ridiculously hard but the throw away nature works well and the recent downloadable content complements this in every way with loads of new ludicrous challenges. Become bored of this and there's always the option to create your own tracks with the custom editor, a great mode though some of the rotation controls could have been made simpler. But put in the time and there's no end to the challenges and when you're done, simply upload it for others to play. From the impossible to the most well designed maps you'll find, this is an inspired aspect that will continue to support the longevity of this huge package.
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