How do you follow on from the sheer insanity of last year’s Trials Fusion: Awesome Level MAX? Trials of the Blood Dragon somehow manages to up the ante, with an even more ludicrous premise as RedLynx marry their Trials gameplay with the sheer nonsense that was Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
That Far Cry spin off featured introduced us to the 80s action film pastiche of Vietnam War 3, and this Trials spin off adds several more chapters to that, with eight multi-level episodes that follow Rex Power Colt’s cyber commando kids through Vietnam War 4. It’s told during levels with voice overs – with quite intentionally poor acting – but it also features animated cutscenes, replete with the kinds of visual noise and chromatic aberrations that make it look like an 80s cartoon that you’re watching back on a VHS you brought down from the loft after 30 years. Sadly, it all wears thin well before you’ve finished the game’s story.
The core Trials gameplay will be familiar to anyone who’s played any of the previous games, as you agonisingly control the momentum and pitch of the bike in your charge. Depending on the level design, it can be a glorious series of ramps that send you arcing through the sky, or a painstaking mess of awkward jumps that see you having to be meticulous about every single element in order to get through.
As a standalone spin-off, Trials of the Blood Dragon starts off fairly easily to try and ease players into the game, but what we’ve seen over the last few games and expansions is a determination from RedLynx to push their game to the limits. A few years ago there was a pedal bike in Evolution, Fusion added a quad bike, and there was a cat riding a unicorn in last year’s Awesome Level MAX. Blood Dragon is quick to add even more, with an eight wheel APC, on-foot platforming sections, jet packs, grappling hooks, guns and more. Sadly, many of these simply aren’t fun to play with, and it feels like the developers are really grasping at straws to find where they can take the series next.
Building on top of the core dirt bike gameplay, some levels have you using the right analogue stick to fire an SMG or aiming a grappling hook at luminescent grapple points, and it works well. However, the APC just feels dumb and cumbersome by comparison, the jet pack levels come to rely on laser grids and instant deaths, and the on-foot sections fail to feel even vaguely satisfying, with horribly floaty physics to the lame platforming. These, in particular, are a fun-sapping waste.
Which is a real shame, because some of the levels are RedLynx at their creative best. Tongues are firmly in cheek as they lean on every single 80s action film trope you can possibly think of, and that leads to some fantastic variety to the visuals and locations. One level has the scenery shifting and transforming around you in the midst of a hallucinogenic drug trip, others shift the source of gravity around you as you ride, and you’re often switching between vehicles and characters mid-level. While it doesn’t always hit the mark – a few levels are just downright frustrating, others are simply dull – this ingenuity is where the game’s at its strongest, especially when using the traditional dirt bike and the grappling hook.
Thing is, there’s enough little annoyances and disappointments that I never really felt compelled to replay and improve my times. In fact, I actively don’t want to play some of them again, with the intercut on foot and jet pack segments, the frustration of trying to drag a bomb around without bumping it too heavily, and so many other moments just drain what fun there was from the game.
There’s little else for the game to draw upon, with 30 levels in the single player and the traditional secrets and hidden bonuses, but none of the local or online multiplayer that made Trials a game I’d occasionally dust off when people were around. You’ll have to load up Trials Fusion if that’s what you’re after.
Despite being a standalone game, Trials of the Blood Dragon is at best a quirky aside to Trials Fusion. With so many truly ridiculous ideas in the story, they’ve given themselves free license to experiment and try new things, but so many of them simply don’t come off and aren’t that much fun. Let’s cross our fingers that RedLynx get back to what the series is so good at with their next game.
Version tested: PlayStation 4