Rising To The Challenge

There once was a time where I played almost every game on the hardest difficulty. I didn’t always start that way, but if it was a sequel or I was already familiar with the gameplay mechanics, then I ramped it up to Veteran, Extra Hard, Crushing, Extreme, or whatever the most ridiculous level of difficulty was called.

These days, I play games almost exclusively on normal mode, barely ever revisiting them, and playing on a harder level only if I’m finding it too easy or if the review demands that I do so. I’ve convinced myself that games are better that way, and that it’s the best way to experience the story without having to constantly restart sections and ruin the pacing of the game.

Yet I’ve now reached the later levels of Trials Fusion, which has now been out for over a week, and it’s taught me that a higher difficulty level can be part of the fun.

Trials Fusion isn’t an easy game, even during the early stages. It’s literally about balancing your rider on the bike, and if you strive for Gold medals like me, you’ll often find that you have to aim for very few faults, where you restart at a checkpoint and try again rather than replaying the whole level. If you exceed a certain number, you’ll only be getting a Silver or even Bronze medal. You have to be fast too, and while that’s fine in the earlier levels, most of which don’t take many retries at all, the “hard” stages are ridiculous.

It’s compelling, though, and ridiculously fun as well as extremely anger-inducing. The Icebreaker level, for example, in the Skill Showcase set of levels (which acts as the third to last set) was near impossible when I first tackled it. I’ll always do one playthrough without restarting from the beginning, to gauge the difficulty level, and my total number of faults was 77. To imagine that I could get this under 15 for Silver, and then take that down to under 5 for Gold, with a time under two minutes seemed ridiculous.

At this point, I was playing with two friends of mine, and we were taking a turn each, swapping the controller to the next player as soon as we got to 15 faults, which seemed like a fair deal. It took ages before any of us got close to that magic number, and we even failed by reaching the end with 16 at one point. But one of my friends did it, and we had the Silver medal. That wasn’t good enough, though – I needed that Gold. So, after some perseverance, I managed it, and you can see that attempt below.

It might have taken a lot of time, but the thing with Trials Fusion is that Silver just isn’t good enough. If I complete a game on medium, that’s fine, but if I don’t get a gold medal? Then I’ll be trying again and again. It’s the same with most racing games, so that ultimately the true test of difficulty is how it makes sense in the game world. If I’m Nathan Drake, and keep dying time and again, only to appear round the corner, that doesn’t make sense and would ruin any first playthrough in my eyes, but if I’m a nameless bike rider in the future, then resetting my position somehow feels more normal.

It’s also about having that smooth difficulty curve, which eases you into the game before presenting you with some excellent challenges. I don’t like Dark Souls – that’s just hard for the sake of it – but I love genuinely challenging games, especially if it gradually increases the difficulty and makes sense within context.

So, while I don’t think I’ll be going back to playing every game on the hardest difficulty with the promise of a gold PSN trophy at the end, throw some leaderboards in, the promise of medals as accolades, and a really well designed reset system to encourage that one-more-go mentality, and I’ll be set. It’s nice to just play games for the story with no qualms, but it’s just as good to find that game which encourages you to excel and beat your friends with a ridiculous level of difficulty.

Just like the central gameplay mechanics of Trials Fusion, it’s all about the balance.


  1. PC version unlocks today, so Ill finally be able to play it tonight. :)

  2. Gave up yesterday on the same course! But I’ll be back at it later!

  3. Just wait until you finish the hard levels and unlock the ability to gain platinum medals … gold just doesn’t cut it anymore.
    I’ve been going back through the hard levels to try for silver medals (or better). So far I have at least all silvers for the first set of hard levels but the second set are just kicking my arse.

    As for the extreme levels … I got part way through the first level and got stuck on one particular section that I just couldn’t seem to do. I think I’ll leave them until I manage to get better at the hard levels.

    • I just had 500 retries on one of them.

      • And to think you took the micky out of me for 497 faults! Those extreme levels are hard!

  4. I learnt how best to master Trials when gunning for the Marathon Achievement in the original. Patience and persistence with a sprinkle of custom soundtracks will get you far. Then it is all down to muscle memory I swear :-/ I actually completed Containment in Trials HD blindfolded and faultless as a challenge set by the missus to watch Taken over Pride and Prejudice that night.

    The Trials games are amongst my favourite since twatting a penguin across the artic in an attempt to land just a few feet further.

    • *Container Rush, mixing CoD up there.

  5. I woke up in the middle of the night and screamed “Welcome to the Futuuure!”

  6. I picked this game up last Saturday knowing little about what was involved and my only previous experience being the (non Ubisoft) Vita version. Well I have to say it has had me hooked in no time. The leaderboards are an immense part of the game. I’ve never used the share button as much as I have since getting this game. The ability to wind people up and say ‘hey look what I’ve done’ is immense. Trouble is it comes right back at you in no time at all!

    I only ventured on to the hard levels for the first time last night. It sure does ramp up the difficulty. I was thinking I can’t do this. But after some time and many restarts (I’ve never used the touch pad on the DS4 as much too!) it does start to come together, to the point where I have done one of the levels pretty well. Yes, ok, only one but that means I have lots more left to try. But then I have to keep going back to try and beat times that have now beaten my previous times. This game is going to keep me occupied for ages I should imagine. What a bargain.

    In case you couldn’t tell, I’m loving this game.

  7. It’s an odd game. The bronze/silver/gold medal thing gets annoying. Kind of. The first few sets of levels are far too easy, and the only “challenge” is getting through them fast enough without too many crashes.

    Then the difficulty spikes, and you’re struggling with the dodgy physics. Not helped by the DS4 sticks being far too stiff. I find landing properly a bit tricky with the sticks resisting any attempt to lean in the right direction.

    At which point, you’re just trying to earn an extra medal or two to unlock the next set of levels. And swearing lots. Very creative swearing here.

    The only thing to do then is play some of the user created levels, turn the bloody thing off, and then probably end up playing it for another 4 hours after a suitable period of hating it and swearing never to come back to it. About 12 minutes should do.

    It’s horribly addictive, but I can’t quite work out if it’s good or not, and if all the flaws are worth overlooking. Once it starts getting hard, is it really a fair challenge? Or just memory and trying to work with what you’ve got to get through the bloody thing?

    On the plus side, restarting is pretty much instant, which is good. (Although that weird texture thing happens every single time).

    • I must say I haven’t had any trouble with the controls. I’m not particularly good at it, but every mistake I make is down to my own incompetence rather than sticky controls. The physics are fairly unrealistic, but they are consistent so once you get a feel for them it clicks a bit more I found.

  8. This game is the electronic equivalent of crack – I’m starting to hate myself after hitting the touchpad about a million times but still I’m playing.

    I’m now playing it via remote play, which is horrendous torture when it lags. I did just beat Tony and Blair though which seems to make it alright?!

    • And I’ve now found the main problem with remote play – I can’t straighten the fingers on my left hand at all!

      • And there’s no pressure sensitive triggers – that won’t help!

      • Yes! Overall it’s an utterly stupid way to play it that is much closer to torture than playing a game!

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