You can be forgiven for spending your opening moments with Urban Trial Freestyle believing that you’ve seen this before somewhere. Mainly because you have.
Though that needn’t be a negative, for Tate Interactive, long adored for bringing Dreamcast classic Kao the Kangaroo into the world, clearly saw success in RedLynx’s Trials Evolution and felt the need to deliver their own version to the Nintendo eShop.
The shameless inspiration that ever so closely treads the Xbox Live Arcade release aside, the Polish developer has still skillfully used the already concocted formula to conjure their own interpretation that proves more than capable of holding its own.
For those unfamiliar with how everything’s geared, you control a motocross rider that must haphazardly make their way through an obstacle course in the quickest, and most skilled, way possible. Each is a heavily physics-based gauntlet, the player required to maintain the rider’s balance by leaning forward or backwards on the bike to surpass increasingly insurmountable challenges, avoiding collisions and generally trying not to tumble from your bike.
Courses themselves are thrill-a-minute rides, seeing you soar into the sky, backflipping between ramps, or racing across a moving train, each filled with periodic challenges that task you with achieving the longest jump, precisely landing at a specific point on the track, or maintain a set speed – seeking to beat your personal best on each replay.
Urban Trial Freestyle‘s greatest frustration is regrettably the key ingredient, physics. Handling is far too loose for a game like this, meaning that you’ll often witness your bike rearing up unnecessarily as you accelerate forward, or reacting to the terrain in entirely unexpected ways. Tighter responsiveness here and Tate Interactive could’ve been on to a winner.
Upgrades can be purchased for bikes, acutely altering their handling although this doesn’t prove enough to negate criticism, whereas aesthetical items can also be bought to change the rider’s appearance.
Backdrops, stylised upon Downtown, Outskirts, Industrial, Train Depot and Underground settings, are each presented with impressive 3D depth, although can be completed within minutes. Not necessarily a problem for the speed run fanatics keen to improve their high scores, but more of a concern to those who shell out £6.29 (€6.99) and will be surprised to have gotten through the game’s 20 courses within a matter of hours.
The option to play each course within either Stunt Mode or Time Attack attempts to double the game’s content in such way, although will still see the game bested within a relatively short space of time.
A relatively deep track editor is a welcome addition though, greatly aided through touchscreen control, and certainly something that the handheld isn’t treated to often enough. Relative track design is already pre-created, with wannabe designers able to place objects, ramps etc throughout as they please. Rewarding for those wishing to invest their time here to play their own creations, although sadly can’t be shared any further than this as far as I could tell.
The inclusion of online ranking boards, as well as the option to display ghosts, are also positives, elongating play for those who are up to the challenge.
Though, Urban Trial Freestyle still amounts as an unpolished gem – a short while longer in the oven surely seeing Tate Interactive produce a more balanced take on the emerging genre. Although, what they have delivered truly leaves our appetite wanting more…