"Welcome To the Future" of Trials with its over-the-top sci-fi theme, robotic voice-overs and vaguely camp cyber-warrior who sits astride his two-wheeled beast ready to unleash his bunny-hopping skills across a variety of bonkers courses.
Like previous games in the series, Trials Fusion presents an arcade-style take on the sport of motorcycle trials, but this time around developer RedLynx trades in some of the natural-looking tracks and environments from previous games for a dazzlingly bright futuristic setting, which has essentially allowed it to get all creative and funky with the design of some of the courses as well as the backdrops and obstacles that players have to navigate.
Gameplay hasn’t changed and involves picking and choosing from a variety of unlockable bikes and completing some tricky courses, while competing in time trials against the online community. Yes, the all-new FMX trick mode allows riders to pull of some fancy aerial manoeuvres, such as the ‘superman,’ the ‘driller’ or ‘the kiss of death’ to rack up XP points, but success largely still boils down to putting your foot on the gas and breaking at the right time, while using body momentum to affect the trajectory of the bike and prevent an unnecessary crash.
The biggest change to this physics-based motorcycle platformer is the setting, with the likes of spaceships and levitating/shifting platforms offering up some outlandish level design throughout Career Mode. Despite some clever course design, such as the ramps that move around and slot into place right in front of your eyes, it’s all about building up the skills as a cyclist and mastering the bike as you progress from ‘easy’ tracks that can be completed in less than a minute through to frustratingly difficult courses that test your patience as much as your skill.
The overall sci-fi theme is a little bizarre, with Cindy, a robotic female voice-over explaining challenges and giving you a few tips along the way. However, the futuristic backdrops and neon-lit tracks look impressive with towering city buildings decked out in a shimmering silver and scripted events, such as explosions and falling debris, providing some eye-candy and injecting some life into the environments. The shiny futuristic environments can be a little over-bearing on the eyes – we certainly prefer the more organic, natural-looking locations in Career mode – but the sci-fi theme certainly brings with it some unique ideas that provides a fresh take on the popular sport.
From rainforests to grand urban settings, there’s an excellent range of tracks available in Career Mode with five levels offering around 7-8 challenges in each, culminating in a final game of skill. The aim is to win bronze, silver or gold medals and complete a course in the fastest time with the fewest amount of crashes, with the added incentive of earning cash for beating some well-thought out challenges, such as completing a track without taking your foot from the gas. Consequently, Trials Fusion offers some decent added replay value that keeps you coming back for more as you seek to net the coveted gold medal in each race and tick off all those challenges.
Steep inclines, gravitational pulls, loop-the-loops and staggered platforms require riders to use the momentum of bikes to their advantage to wheelie, bunny-hop and judge landings with perfection as things soon take a step up in terms of difficulty. Though the control method is as simple as it gets, courses get increasingly complex and the real challenge comes from learning advance methods by leaning forward and backwards at the right time to adjust the trajectory, while working out the best times to accelerate and slow down in order to navigate some tricky obstacles.
Even with tutorials that brief riders on advanced manoeuvres, it’s extremely difficult to master the bikes. We breezed through ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ courses with little effort only to be taken down a peg or two with the ‘hard’ tracks where constant rinse-and-repeat tactics can get very frustrating. Thankfully, checkpoints are never too far away and at any point in the game you can revert back to the last checkpoint to try again with the minimum amount of waiting time.
Despite the simplistic control scheme, there’s a lot of depth to the control scheme which makes mastering Trials a real challenge, with the need to understand the physics of the bike becoming increasingly important as you progress. While Trials veterans may well relish this challenge, it’s certain to alienate those half-decent riders who were having a great time competing for gold medals in the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ modes only to be slapped in the face when they reach the latter stages where they’ll inevitably succumb to frequent crashes which, hampers the flow and enjoyment of the game.
To spice things up, a new FMX mode allows you to perform tricks by pushing the analog stick in any direction when in the air. The animations are superb, though the control scheme for pulling off tricks isn’t very well explained – the fact that the trick you pull off depends not just on the direction you push the analog stick but also the positioning of the bike means that it’s difficult to consistently pull off the tricks you’d like. Nevertheless, it’s good fun pulling off all sorts of crazy combos which you’ll need to do to rise up the leaderboards and complete some of the sub-challenges.
Indeed, Trials Fusion is rammed full of content beyond the traditional ‘A’ to ‘B’ trials, including the option of searching for hidden collectibles in the form of squirrels, fun rider customisation options, hidden games and the multiplayer and Create modes. Create Mode adds some decent extra value for those brave and patient enough to work out how to use an impressive selection of tools to create tracks. There’s a vast array of options at hand for users to make some epic courses, but the lack of solid tutorials doesn’t make it particularly accessible, which makes it likely that only those with a real eye for game design will forge anything half-decent.
The multiplayer portion is far more accessible with the host choosing which tracks to race across and then four players competing against each other for the best times. Indeed, it’s the social element of Trials Fusion that has really kept us coming back for more. During the Career mode, you can see the Ghost (name) of a friend’s list competitor powering away down the track, which really spurs you on, while it’s great fun competing in multiplayer mode that runs very smoothly.
From a personal point of view, we do prefer the more natural-looking tracks of previous games over the sci-fi theme of Trials Fusion, which gets a little silly at times. However, there’s no disputing that the level design is excellent and made to challenge. Despite some very frustrating courses, the social features, the inclusion of FMX tricks and the amount of stuff to keep you busy — such as side challenges, secret games and collectibles — gives Trials Fusion that one-more-go mentality that fans of the series should relish. Quite simply, it’s more of the same but with a futuristic twist that may split opinion.