Microsoft are releasing five top quality arcade games each Summer in what they call ‘Summer of Arcade’, it’s over a five week period and this year’s list began back on 22nd July and is due to end on the 19th of August. There are many great things about Xbox Live and with the recent update things are getting better all the time. The one thing I love more than any other Xbox Live feature is the massive library of arcade titles on offer, and this week Summer of Arcade brings us the brand new Trials HD and I certainly gave it more than a trial, so let me give you the TSA verdict.
Developed by RedLynx, Trials HD is simply about trial bikes, speed, air and a good dose of caution with a sprinkling of sod it – lets go full throttle. Basically it is about controlling motorbikes with precision as you crawl at a slow speed and then give the throttle a twist to launch your bike onto or over another obstacle or platform. Or you are giving it the beans and bombing at break neck speeds whilst going around loops and up ramps so high you duck just to avoid banging your head on that orbiting rock we know as the moon – well perhaps not that high but you do get pretty high with the many holy crap that jump is so sweet moments coming thick and fast. So, it’s a great blend of skill and precision with many moments of full throttle – on the edge of your seat – speed runs.
The objective is to clear a level in the shortest time and with the least faults. If you crash (and you will) you can respawn at a checkpoint or opt to restart the level in a bid to obtain a faultless run through. But each time you opt to just respawn at a checkpoint you will receive a “fault” which then hampers your chances of obtaining the better medals and unlocks. You have four difficulties ranging from easy to extreme and damn does it get challenging – I sailed through easy, started to struggle at normal and just managed to complete hard after a solid thirteen hours gaming to bring you this review. It was a challenge but never a chore as it is simply hugely addictive and any faults you make are down to human error with you never feeling cheated. There are also tournaments to complete where you tackle multiple tracks where the combined time and faults are recorded as you hunt for the gold medal.
The mode I cannot get enough of though is the Skill Games: there are twelve skill games to complete and will see you playing fun modes such as the ski jump in which you must launch yourself off your bike and aim for the best distance. One event will see you towing a trailer with two bombs and you are to get as far as possible as fast as possible without the bombs leaving the trailer. With the bumps, hills and ramps the bombs are bouncing around like Jordan on a cross country jog and the event is tense but so much fun. Another great event in the Skill Games will see you launch your rider down steps littered with barrels and glass in an attempt to break as many bones as possible – simply genius.
The game looks stunning and even more so for being an arcade title. It is fast and runs at sixty frames a second with no screen tearing at all: explosions look great and the levels are really colourful, except where you are underground tackling sewage pipes where naturally everything is dark and grey. With glass smashing and ramps collapsing the physics are very good indeed. There are levels that require the rider to tackle platforms that are on a pivot or knock sheets of wood down to make ramps – the suspension and weight distribution (of which controlling is the key to success) is most impressive and is how I would imagine a bike handling: pull back and hit the throttle and the bike will go into a wheelie and eventually fly from under you, and step on the brakes too hard whilst leaning forwards and you’ll be over those handle bars and head first in to a world of pain. Managing the weight distribution is so very important in later tracks where you will see near straight up vertical inclines and need to “kick up” the front and back of the bike to traverse some very tough terrain.
The game tracks your time and faults across all levels and when tackling a track you get a progress bar at the top of your screen that displays your friends “ghost”. This is a great feature and will keep you pushing harder to beat your friends best times and scores. Our very own DjhSecondNature and I had a fair few competitive bouts yesterday and it was great to see (in real-time) whether I was beating his best run or not. It is a great little touch and adds much competition to the game. There are a handful of customisation options for both your bikes and rider too, and though not on the same level as Midnight Club LA it does allow you to personalise your rider/bike and is sufficient for an arcade title. What is really impressive is the level editor you get bundled in – making your own levels is a great addition and allows you to make those dare devil jumps through rings of fire whilst using the custom soundtracks to play “Ghost Rider” – perfection, sadly only missing a cheering crowd in the background.
A final feature I really like is that when viewing the online leader boards for the best scores you can instantly download a replay of the run. It is literally instant too – a very impressive technical accomplishment.
The game looks great and plays great whether you are getting serious and lining up to flick the back wheel onto the next platform, or traveling at stupendous speeds looping and then launching for orbit, smiling until you realise you now have to land safely. There is a lot on offer with trial mode, tournaments and twelve skill games with it asking for 1200 Microsoft points (around ten pounds) it is great value indeed. Hats off to RedLynx and if Microsoft are banging out quality titles like this for a “Summer of Arcade” – I pray they see fit to introduce an Autumn, Winter and Spring arcade too! A great game and it is up there with the best Xbox Live Arcade has to offer – the most fun I have had in a downloadable title.