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Critical Consensus: Trials Evolution

RedLynx follows one hit Trials game with another, and the critics are lining up to applaud its achievement

As digital platforms mature, the concept of a 'AAA' release is changing. With so few big-budget console titles enjoying any success at market it is no longer useful to limit the term to such a narrow slice of the industry's output. For AAA to be relevant at all it must surely be defined by anticipation and popularity rather than the amount of resources required to create a given product.

With this in mind, a far greater range of games can be considered: The Sims Social is a AAA release; Angry Birds Space is a AAA release; and Trials Evolution is a AAA release.

With over 100,000 sales in a single day - that's more than £1 million in just 24 hours - RedLynx has delivered a worthy successor to the multi-million selling Trials HD, and a very tidy profit to its parent company, Ubisoft. What's more, it has the unrestrained admiration of almost the entire critical community, with even its lowest scoring reviews struggling to find any substantial criticisms.

And with Trials Evolution a low-scoring review amounts to four-stars out of a possible five. That's what The Guardian's Neil Davey saw fit to award, offering nothing but praise for what RedLynx has accomplished, and a strangely appropriate comparison to the reigning king of the mobile gaming scene, Angry Birds.

"It might seem odd to compare a racing game to that global iPhone addiction, but in terms of addictive quality the games are hard to separate. Like Angry Birds, there's a big daft sense of humour behind Trials Evolution. Very much like Angry Birds, the game has got that, 'I'll just have one more go...' quality that can swallow hours whole. And exactly like Angry Birds, it's a simple premise that only takes seconds to pick up.

"You control a trailbike rider. He moves from left to right in a linear fashion. You've got to get him from the start line to the finish by negotiating a series of obstacles and jumps. That's it. You had more complex objectives on Spectrum games but, as we keep arguing, good gameplay is all you need. As it happens, Trials Evolution has great gameplay and even better scenery. Not only does the appearance make you forget the linear nature of the game, there are moments that will leave you gasping."

It would be difficult to toy with Trials' finely tuned gameplay without it becoming something else entirely, so RedLynx has focused its efforts elsewhere - specifically the environments, which are both more varied and more imaginative than Trials HD's relatively bland industrial interiors. In his 9 out of 10 review, The Verge's Russ Frushtick embarks on one of those florid, descriptive passages so beloved by critics to illustrate just how much has changed in RedLynx's approach to the world.

"The level variety is thanks in no small part to a beast of a track editor that actually manages to put Halo's Forge to shame"

Russ Frushtick, The Verge

"June 6, 1944. Normandy. An allied amphibious landing craft cruises through choppy water, narrowly avoiding German artillery and machine-gun fire. Seconds stretch for an eternity as the craft nears its destination: A scorched beach head littered with bombed out bunkers and anti-vehicle mines. The craft lands, a klaxon sounds and the bulletproof gate, thus far the difference between life and death, lowers with a clang.

"A motorcycle zooms up onto the beach, across demolished tank remains and proceeds to do a flip over a pillbox before driving full speed into the nearest enemy bunker while calling in an air strike, blowing the target to kingdom come. This is the second level in Trials Evolution."

Trials Evolution, Frushtick forcefully states, has some of the most "astoundingly awesome looking" levels and "insane" environments he has ever encountered. "You'll escape from a nuclear power plant mid- meltdown, race through a haunted, Stone Henge-like graveyard under a blood red moon, dodge giant rock collossi as they attempt to crush you with swimming pool-sized hands, cross a suspension bridge in the middle of an earthquake, and more.

"These aren't exceptions, either. Just about every level in Trials Evolution is memorable for some reason or other, and the constant changes in venue help to keep things fresh. That level variety is thanks in no small part to a beast of a track editor that actually manages to put Halo's Forge to shame."

The Track Editor is the very same tool with which RedLynx created the game, and is robust enough to support a variety of game styles far beyond riding a motorbike across historical battlefields. A number of reviews compare this aspect of Trials Evolution to Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet, and that isn't entirely hyperbolic.

Indeed, it is reflective of the generosity and attention to detail evident in the numerous features and modes surrounding Trials' guy-on-bike core gameplay. However, Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell - one of the keenest Trials fans it is possible to meet, and one of the only critics to voice any criticism of the game - believes that these fringe concerns are the only time that RedLynx's performance is less than consistent, particularly the self-consciously wacky Skill Games.

"The range of Skill Games is...a mixed selection," he writes in his 9 out of 10 review. "Some, like a task where you have to see how far you can ride juggling a large steel ball in a curved brace on top of your bike, or another where you need to fling your limp rag-doll body between trapeze bars, are funny and memorable. But most are easily forgotten. There is something nice to be said for their inclusion, however, given that most developers these days would probably carve them out and sell them separately.

"The new multiplayer side of the game is much more successful. It's still you against the track, but this time there are up to three other riders in adjacent lanes. It's motocross, in other words, married to Trials' peerless handling; you're still fighting for grip, balance and momentum, only this time you have to avoid becoming distracted by the guy doing the same thing in the lane next to you. Alone, but with friends."

"The sheer content is so plentiful that it's hard to imagine Trials getting much better than this for 15 bucks"

Brad Shoemaker, Giant Bomb

Yet, in a strange way, these problems only serve to highlight Trials Evolution's key strength: unlike the majority of XBLA releases, RedLynx has created a full 'package' of content to rival all but the most feature-packed console titles. For this, and for its fervent, uncompromising difficulty, Giant Bomb's Brad Shoemaker is full of admiration.

"The trimmings around that core conceit are so robust and the sheer content so plentiful that it's hard to imagine Trials getting much better than this for 15 bucks," he writes in his five-star review.

"I won't deny frequently wanting to throw the controller at the TV while playing Trials Evolution. Come to think of it, this wouldn't be a Trials game if I didn't feel that way, but it's not like the game goes out of its way to maliciously abuse you. It's harsh but fair... As frustrating as some of the later courses can be, there's always room for you to improve with a little more practice and a little more finesse. Blaming Trials for being too hard is like getting mad at gravity when you fall down.

"The good news for casual Trials fans or newcomers is that Evolution offers a gentler learning curve than Trials HD did, which wasted no time getting stupid hard and not offering you much else to do if you weren't interested in going really in-depth with the gameplay. There's a huge list of courses in Evolution and they're broken up sensibly, with a more gradual ramp in difficulty that's punctuated by occasional license tests which actually offer some good tutorials on how to do things like drive up an almost sheer incline."

All of which leaves you with very few reasons not to go and download Trials Evolution immediately. But, on the strength of those day-one sales, you may well have done so already.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.