Review – Trials Rising
Trials Rising is a throwback to the Trials HD days of Xbox Live Arcade that sees you controlling your motocross bike through insanely creative courses requiring either pinpoint control of throttle, brake, and positioning, or a willingness to just ‘send it’ and try and fly an impossible gap.
The game is something of an outlier in today’s market, in that it’s a sequel that doesn’t add a lot of new things or make key changes to a winning formula in order to justify being a new game in an existing series.
Maybe it helps that this is a ‘return to form’ sequel for a franchise that fell prey to that exact pitfall with 2014’s Trials Fusion’s unnecessary feeling trick system, and 2016’s Trials of the Blood Dragon’s…well, everything. It was a very weird game.
Trials Rising goes back to the basics of Trials HD, a 2009 release that set the world on fire and remains arguably THE definitive Xbox Live Arcade game, where it’s just you, the bike, a physics system that ‘feels’ right, and some of the world’s wildest tracks.
It’s the ‘feel’ being right that my friends, as Tony Hawk Pro Skater fans, used to talk about and I never understood until I got into Trials, and the gameplay ‘feel’ in Trials Rising is as good as its ever been in the franchise. Nailing a lean at just the right moment to bump your rear wheel over the top of a run-destroying obstacle you’re intentionally barely clearing in order to maximize your acceleration time before the next jump…it’s sublime.
With ‘feel’ being so vital to the experience, it’s no surprise the game is somewhat unforgiving to new players who will often wheelie and crash right out of the gate. To help with this, Trials Rising offers a greatly expanded tutorial section called University of Trials that teaches players beginner through advanced techniques, with each lesson featuring a challenge forcing you to perform the technique and help lock it into memory so you can dominate the leaderboards.
Though I predominantly play Trials games as single player experiences, usually treating it as more of a motocross-based platforming game than a race title, Trials Rising’s leaderboards have helped push me into competing more with friends. Racing against their times is one thing but taking on their ghosts directly really adds to the experience. When I feel confident that I can beat them, maybe I’ll jump into online or local multiplayer to try it directly.
The game’s not all sunshine and backflips, however, as there are a few stumbles – the most notable being the progression system. The experience-based system draws out the experience, gating away the more advanced tracks until the player has leveled up enough. This progression system might keep new players engaged longer but it is frustrating to the advanced players who want to get their gold medals on the lower tracks and never touch them again.
There’s also a lootbox system at play here, but hold your horses – it’s not worth getting outraged about. Every time you level up, you’ll get a free box that contains cosmetic gear for you or your bike, animations, or stickers. After two or three boxes I realized I didn’t really care much for the customization options and just stopped opening them for the session. When I later opened 25-odd boxes, I found a pretty eclectic mix of beer hats, boxing gloves, and weird pants…and a virtual ton of stickers. You can sell back duplicates for currency to use buying exactly what part you want – which made me wonder why it doesn’t sell back dupes automatically.
After selling all my duplicates I was able to outfit my bike in glittering gold and pick up a nice beer hat for myself.
In Trials Rising it’s important to look the part.