Despite only ever dipping my toe into the futuristic landscapes of Trials Fusion, there was once a time where I was completely and hopelessly addicted to the petrol fumes of Trials Evolution on Xbox Live Arcade. The control mechanics were just borderline perfect to the point where every single nerve in my fingers felt like they had some sort of subliminal sensory connection with the virtual motorcycle. I would fine-tune every tilt, rev, lean, and flip until I became one with the dynamic demands of each track. To then explore the customized courses created by the community thanks to Redlynx allowing players full access to track editing tools completely blew my mind. Needless to say, I have been in high anticipation for a Trials game to land on a Nintendo platform for quite some time. Let alone a true, fully-fledged sequel that I can finally take on the road with me.
For those who have never played a Trials game before, the idea is to simply get your scrambler from A to B as quickly and as precisely as you possibly can without rag-dolling onto the deck. The only tools available to you are your accelerator, brake, and the ability to lean your bike back or forth like a physics-based speed-running platformer on wheels. Managing the weight, speed, and angle of the bike is absolutely paramount for success. The good news is that it shouldn’t take too long for a beginner to get to grips with the mechanics. The great news is that both the learning curve and challenge is almost endless.
There is one very important factor to be aware of when it comes to the Nintendo Switch version. Unfortunately, unless you own an original GameCube controller, Switch owners will be slightly handicapped due to the lack of analog triggers – absent from pretty much every controller tailored for the portable home console. This basically means that there is no finesse in acceleration when it comes to pulling your index fingers on the ZL and ZR Buttons when trying to climb steep slopes. The way RedLynx has got over this hurdle is by utilizing the Right Stick to allow control of the accelerator pressure, brake, and reverse. To many, this may be a dealbreaker considering how important every subtle movement can be in a traditional setup – especially when the courses and later bikes such as the Mantis begin to demand it. However, I did soon feel accustomed to what would seem like a left-field approach to the classic control scheme, with a bit of begrudged acceptance and ten minutes or so of practice.
While there are a few elements that did slightly grate on me with this sequel, be sure to know that Trials Rising is still as addictive as it has ever been. Each course is expertly designed with love and care, accompanied by a tutorial mode in place that will help the player understand the more advanced movements. Which tricks the tutorials will teach you depends on what level your avatar is. The more dexterity a new set of tracks require usually opens up an explanation of a technique relevant to overcome them. The training grounds does more than to simply teach a newbie new fancy tricks though, for there’s a whole field of challenge to overcome – even for the more highly experienced Trials player.
The single-player campaign is sprawled across the map of the world with tracks catering for the flavor of each continent. These tracks are as topsy turvy and as imaginative as ever, yet undeniably hold more character than the cold grey future seen in Trials Fusion. The new gimmick here is the sponsors who want to represent you based on your ability to shine. Each sponsorship has initiations and contracts for the player to fulfill, whether that be hitting a certain time, beating a rival, dunking a basketball into a net, or knocking out as many front and back flips to meet a rota. What’s great here is that you don’t necessarily have to fully master each track to open up the fruits of the world. Unfortunately, the sacrifice for such generosity did make me feel like I was getting dragged around by a child in a toy shop.
Even though the gameplay is welcomingly familiar yet as wacky and as moreish as ever, the way things can be presented has a certain stigma to it that I’m personally not too fond of. It’s almost as if the developer has been taking notes of recent trends and felt the need to simply stuff them all into this package. Loot crates, Fortnite-style win poses, and the urge to just throw rewards at you like a parent trying to shut up a spoilt kid with a free mobile app. The only thing missing is seeing a biker doing the bloody floss.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this sequel has so much to offer even without the added benefit of the reasonably priced downloadable content. But the game’s EA-style presentation does make the icing of what happens to be a rather tasty cake seem a bit stale at this point. The blue premium acorn currency does not do the game any favors, either. Although they can be obtained as in-game rewards, they are only ever really advertised to you in Nintendo eShop bundles until you obtain your first incredibly hard-to-find golden squirrel hidden collectible. They make the free-to-earn chore of loot boxes seem a bit counter-intuitive too, as the rewards are never quite as appealing at face value than the premium stuff on offer.
However, on the other side of the fence, such loot boxes and free rewards do provide some decent customizable potential for the more creative player. With a bit of imagination, customizable stickers found in such crates can be combined together to create new snazzy designs which can also be sold for in-game currency. It’s a very cool feature that I could spend hours on – not to mention the rather badass Akuma kanji from Street Fighter that I made to fit on the back of my character’s jacket. Speaking of customizations, the rather tricky but generous track editor is back with all the props from past and present games to test the skills of both creators and players alike. While the option to download custom tracks is a bit of a technical mess at the moment, once it’s loaded up there are already plenty of smart ideas that have been made by the community.
As far as the visuals go, the Switch handles the game competently enough for a decent Trials experience. Sure, it does have its fair share of DOOM muddiness and a few frame rate and technical stutters, but these are mild sacrifices to be had for what I found to be a pretty decent port overall. There’s a good variety of music sewn into the experience also, some of which I found impossible not to hum when living life outside a virtual world. For the amount of content on offer, including a strong online presence and four-player local multiplayer support, you’re clearly getting a decent bang for your buck.
Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to wanting a simple structured progression system akin to Trials Evolution, Trials Rising’s tendency to shamelessly Michael Bay the presentation did leave me pining for simpler times. However, I still found Trials Rising incredibly engrossing enough to fill dinner breaks and free time with the convenient ability to master the bunny hop anytime and anywhere. It is games and flexibilities like these that make the Nintendo Switch such an appealing console in the first place. With stacks of content and tons of replayability at a good price point, Trials Rising does come out swinging. While I’m a firm believer in the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” it is also fair to say that it can be hard to stand out when following the crowd – even if you are the leader of the pack.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ubisoft