Trials is easily one of the most addictive “just one more go” games out there. Its racing-platformer hybrid goes back to the start of the millennium, but it’s still so utterly compelling as you balance throttle control and the weight balance of your bike and rider, racing across jumps and platforms as quickly as possible. It’s as tight and refined in Trials Rising as ever.
Compared to Fusion and Blood Dragon, Rising is much more grounded in its setting, journeying thematically around the world, featuring Hollywood, a small Spanish village in the middle of a tomato festival, having you race alongside a train, through a cargo plane that’s falling apart, or soaking in the atmosphere of a stadium awaiting your exploits. The real world settings doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its dark and inventive sense of humour, often catching you out with moving elements and adding a slight trial and error element to the game that’s accentuated by the instant restarts at a press of a button. As is traditional, crossing the finish line has your rider slamming into the back of a reversing ambulance, getting flung by a catapult, getting slapped in the kisser by a wrecking ball or any number of other endings.
You now race against other ghosts, instead of just place markers, and that gives you more information on how other riders are tackling a stage. It’s a great way to learn how others have tackled something or see if another route is a bit more efficient. Sometimes it’s a Ubisoft created time, other times you’re racing other players. Sometimes you’ll come in a distant second or third and still pick up the Gold medal because you were racing player ghosts, which I wish was made a little clearer.
The campaign is now spread out across a world map, unlocking groups of events in different regions and building up toward a trio of head to head X-Cross races to open the next set. The progression works well, going from the US to Europe, Asia and then back again, with plenty of easier levels to play through before the difficulty builds up. You also pick up new sponsors that add new challenges in events to giving you a reason to go back and replay them, whether it’s simply keeping to a set number of resets or to perform certain tricks.
When events are added a few at a time it makes it easy to think “OK, that event kicked my butt, I’ll go try this one instead!” However, it’s just a little bit higgledy-piggledy, especially when challenges pop up and you have notifications of all the new records set by people on your friends list. There’s also a few too many screens to dismiss before and after levels that I had a tendency to simply mash buttons to get through, simply to get me back into the game. They’re made longer than they need to by the incessant awarding of loot boxes and the game’s desire to check in with online leaderboards.
For newcomers, the University of Trials hosted by Professor FatShady is a much better introduction to the game mechanics than we’ve had previously, but it’s weirdly gated behind levelling up in a way that simply doesn’t make sense. You have to hit level 14 before you can choose to learn about mid-air control, and while I appreciate that it’s not forced upon veteran players already racing through easier content, it’s not early enough when you’re arcing through the sky in the first introductory level.
There’s other things that are a little tucked away, including the Skill Games that are fun little mini-games blending Trials with basketball, ski jumping and more, and the co-op brilliance of the tandem bike can only be found by scrolling past all of the other bikes, even when they’re still locked. It’s actually available from the off and available in all but the X-Cross events.
The tandem bike, which gives both players their own throttle and a rider to contribute to the weight transfer, is brilliant fun, encouraging real teamwork and giving another layer to the party game credentials of Trials Rising. There’s also online racing and local multiplayer, where you can set a cute little forfeit for the loser from a pretty broad list that ranges from doing the dishes or walking the dog to having a moustache drawn on them!
There’s also the returning level editor, which builds upon those featured in previous games. It will be a familiar interface, though it’s pretty daunting for someone not versed in level creation, not least because of the ridiculous depth of the assets you have available to you. Everything from Trials Evolution, Fusion and Blood Dragon is thrown in alongside the new assets in Rising, making for a truly comprehensive package. RedLynx will be doing a bit more to curate and push the best community creations, so there should be plenty of new trials to play for quite some time to come.
The main thing that has me scratching my head is the loot box system. You can’t buy them with microtransactions – these are in the game, but are purely for buying set items and bundles – so loot boxes only come from levelling up, winning challenges and buying with in-game currency. They now feature rider gear in addition to bike parts and stickers, and this ties into a very flexible set of customisations, but you get boxes every time you level up, which is effectively every time you get a gold medal. They also contain far, far too many duplicates, which cannot be traded in for currency automatically or en masse, which when many items are pretty uninspiring just makes the whole system a bit tedious. Thankfully it’s just window dressing to the main show.