It’s been a while until we have played the game that made us physically react to the action on the screen. Trials series was one of the rare examples of games like that, with hair-splitting precision and timing required for the passing of the hardest courses. From the humble beginnings as a browser game in Java (and later in Flash) to the full-fledged AAA superhit for all current-gen platforms, Trials remained a supremely entertaining and challenging game. However, the mean series stopped five years ago with Trials Fusion and everyone thought that was the last we will see of that game. Luckily, everyone was wrong.
That’s right, Trials is back and it’s the same old Trials we used to know and love. Which is a good thing, because the old Trials were awesome. There is something in the simplicity of controls and the complexity of stages which is generally appealing to both casual and hardcore gamers. Basically, you control your bike with only 4 buttons: gas, break, and leaning left and right. This seems simple enough but there is a great number of technical skills to master in order to successfully pass the ordeals this game will put in front of you.
Needless to say, it takes a lot of skill and a quick reading of the terrain in front of you in order to adapt your speed of balance on the fly. You cannot just storm through the stage by holding the accelerator button, but you have to carefully measure both speed and balance in order to make it to the finish line, let alone winning a medal. Concerning the stages, there are more than 100 of them in this game and thematically there was a bit of step down from Trials Fusion’s abstract areas into the levels loosely based on real-life locations. Although Rising presents just a slight visual improvement comparing to Fusion, the game looks visually deeper and richer. Most of the levels are still easy to read at first glance. There is a clear color code for objects that will move or shift, which allows players to react faster and avoid the situation of the floor falling out under them.
However, unlocking all the levels of this game is kind of bothersome, mainly because of the change of the way the series has traditionally worked. Now, all the courses are split into 9 main leagues, most of them containing 8 tracks. You unlock new leagues by beating the previous one Stadium Finals, which is a name for a series of three shorter, multi-lane races. The only way to unlock those races is by earning enough experience points to reach a certain player level.
The biggest flaw of this game is tying new stage unlocks to your level instead of the medals you’ve earned. The first half of the game unlocks relatively easy, but the second half slows down to an unreasonable degree, reducing the game to repetitive grind for sponsors and their contract challenges. Truth to be told, some of them can be fun and present an interesting way to refresh the Trials formula, but most of them are quite frustrating. The catch is that Contracts are the fastest way to earn experience by far, so sooner or later you will have to rely on them in order to advance.
Trials Rising improves some of the flaws from previous games and presents a wide variety of tracks, but a generally good impression is spoiled by insufferable grind and progress system. Nonetheless, it is still satisfying to hop back on the bike and take on the various stages as in the old days the beginning of the millennium.