Kicking off the fourth week of Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade, the high-flying, wheelie-popping Trials HD joins an eminent list of eye-catching downloadable games. It doesn't boast a wildly original concept, nor does it muse on harrowing government conspiracies. But if you're revving for an addictive and feature-rich stunt-driver, this one is right up your race track.
Trials HD is all about physics-based stunts performed on a 2D plane, with a keen focus on elaborately constructed courses. Shaving seconds off your track time is only half the challenge here; getting from point A to B is just as tricky of a proposition.
Trials HD's basic race mode gets you in gear with stages tiered by difficulty. Things start off appropriately slow, but before you know it, you're bounding through staggering jumps and minefield-laden stretches on the way to the checkered flag. Yes, mines, and sometimes even nukes.
With the ways it uses high-powered explosives to punctuate your failure, the game is almost exceedingly cruel, and the 30 minute/500 try limit imposed on each level only adds insult to injury. But the sense of gratification you get from conquering an obstacle feels substantial thanks to the insane challenge the game presents. Consciously placed checkpoints ensure the wellbeing of your controller, and the quick restart function, which lets you get back on your bike with a single button press, helps too.
Outside of going for gold in Trials HD's basic races, a small selection of skill games offer some added hours of hilarity, like rocket-powered ring racing or a very explosive spin on the ski jump. A comprehensive level editor lets you build and share your custom creations with the world, and online leaderboards ensure that no momentous race time goes unnoticed.
For the money, Trials HD's got a lot to keep players from all walks of life busy. The pick up and play sensibility makes it a great party game, and with its heavy emphasis on fast times and challenging tracks, it's also a speed-runner's dream come true. It's rare to see such a simple concept go so far, but Trials HD is definitely as stocked as they come.
There's a deceptive simplicity to Trials HD. Technically speaking, you only need to be mindful of gas, brake, and shifting the weight of your rider with the left analog stick. But factor in physics and the crazy level layouts, and you find a whole lot more at work under the hood.
As the challenges begin to ramp up, you come to see each checkpoint more as its own self-contained action puzzle. Some will call for judicious use of traction, while others will require skillful bunny hops. Subtle shifts of your weight can dramatically affect the trajectory of a jump, and even the slightest press of the accelerator can mean the difference between sticking a landing and barreling out of control.
It isn't necessarily the most realistic rendition of a motorbike in a game, but it certainly is one of the most convincing. The game's fastidious inputs quickly teach you to feather the throttle with care, all while cautiously balancing your rider with a soft touch. When applied to Trials HD's hare-brained courses, an invigorating feeling of exploration and trial and error definitely takes effect. Trying to hack apart the fantastically constructed challenges with the mechanics of realism will be the source of much joy-and just as much frustration. In either case, it's hard to dislodge yourself, even when it's at its most aggravating. Trials HD is all about giving it one more try.
It doesn't push that many polygons, but Trials HD looks suitably good for a DLC title. It combines the functional look of a racer with the levity of a cartoon, flooding its seemingly endless warehouse corridors with industrial materials piled to incredulous heights. It evades bleakness with stylized hues, lighting, and a liberal use of bloom, though for the most part, the visuals still lack some character. Color-commentary from various members of the Jackass crew enlivens the audio with lines of contextual dialogue. Though if you're not too fond of hearing the soothing sounds of combustion looped over and over, bring some headphones.
It's straightforward and often unforgiving, but at 1200 points, you'd be hard pressed to find as infectious a downloadable game as Trials HD. If you're looking for a DLC title with an easy hook and replayability to spare, this one has a lot of rubber to burn.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.