Trials HD Review (Xbox 360)

With the advent of rechargeable life bars, unlimited continues and selectable difficulty settings, gamers today have it pretty easy.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see that, in 2009, a game like Trials HD can come out of nowhere and deliver the kind of dropkick to the dome that NES classics like Battletoads, Contra and Ghosts 'n Goblins all did back in the day.

Cue Slayer - "Here Comes the Pain"
Source: redlynxtrials.com

But what really impresses about Trials HD is that, while the game may be old-school when it comes to difficulty, it’s decidedly new-school when it comes to game design.

While Trials HD contains daredevil obstacle courses that demand a high level of precision from your motorbike racer, it never feels cheap or frustrating to bang your head against a single obstacle for a few minutes straight. Instead, it feels oddly addicting.

Part of the brilliance of the game design within Trials HD is the way the game urges you to keep trying. The game is constantly telling you, "Go ahead, you’ll get it this time," even after you’ve failed the same obstacle for the 50th straight time.

The abundance of checkpoints throughout each of the game’s 50-plus courses also certainly helps ease the pain of repeated failure, as does the ability to restart a botched stunt with the press of a button.

But the real motivating tool within Trials HD is the in-game leaderboards that are displayed in the top-center of the screen. Those leaderboards constantly remind you why you’re really playing the game: to one-up your friends and prove that you’re better than them at controlling a virtual motorbike.

Not to say that the motorbikes in Trials HD are not eerily close to the real thing -- the game’s incredible physics engine has received a solid tuneup since the PC release of Trials 2: Second Edition back in 2008.

In particular, the bikes in Trials HD seem to have gained a bit more weight and lost some of the "floatiness" that was prevalent in the older editions of the game. That upgrade, in addition to red-barrel explosions and hi-def lighting effects, make Trials HD look and feel better than any other Trials game to date.

The improvements to the series carry over to the course designs in Trials HD, which, though a bit bland and unexciting during the Beginner and Easy circuits, reach a high-water mark for the series during the start of the Medium circuit all the way up until the game’s final confrontation with the infamously difficult Inferno map.

Trials HD is clearly making up for the lack of a recent American Gladiators game.
Source: redlynxtrials.com

But what really pushes Trials HD over the top is the game's powerful track editor, which really comes into play after you finish the game’s default collection of courses. However, because Microsoft has certain restrictions when it comes to user-generated content, custom tracks can only be shared amongst friends.

Final Thoughts

With its punishing difficulty and ingenious level designs, Trials HD is the kind of a game that will break all the bones in your body, then have you hopping right back on your bike to line up the stunt to try again.

If you’re the type of gamer who welcomes a challenge, you’ll find enough content in Trials HD to keep you playing for many months to come. Heck, you might even be able to keep playing all the way up until the release of the inevitable sequel -- assuming the custom-track community can keep adding to the game’s collection of spectacular daredevil courses.

Like the game’s Achievement for throwing your rider into a set of king-size bowling pins, Trials HD earns a cleverly placed strike.

In the Driver's Seat: Breaking the norm, Trials HD is a PC game that actually controls better with a controller. You won't have the controls to blame for your crashes, only a lack of skill when handling the motorbike.

Graphics: Trials HD has a slick look that is highlighted by its lighting and explosion effects, the latter of which -- unlike a Michael Bay movie -- are tasteful and reserved.

Presentation: The added customization takes the Trials series to new heights: make your own rider, color your own bike, even build your own track. Too bad you can only share custom courses with your in-game friends.

Entertainment Value: You'll crash (lots), you'll cry (some), but when you finally cross the finish line 50 tries later, you'll pump your controller into the air and yell, "Who's on top now, wood plank!"

Learning Curve: Most players will breeze through the game before smashing their grills into the Medium circuit. From that point on, only the brightest and most dedicated Trials players will persevere -- the payoff for doing so is truly sweet.

Online: In-game leaderboards give you that extra motivation to keep playing, whether you're competing against your friends or taking on the entire world.

Score: 9.0 (Exceptional)

Trials HD Score
Added customization.
In-game leaderboards.
Final courses are best in series.
Friends-only track sharing.
Early courses are boring.
Recycled soundtrack.
out of 10
Trials HD Videos
Member Comments
# 1 jaosming @ 08/18/09 02:24 PM
Spot on

This game is insanely hard in the last difficulty setting yet so refreshing and fun. I only have 2 tracks left, Goin Up and Inferno II, and I know I'll be back trying to get better medals on each track.

The major downfall of the game is the friends only sharing. Unfortunetly, only one of my friends bought this so it looks like I'll need to find a good track making community to friend some track makers.
# 2 TCrouch @ 08/18/09 02:38 PM
I've been having an absolute blast with this one, and hadn't even heard of it until I saw 4 or 5 of my friends playing it. Downloaded it and started it up immediately and haven't regretted a thing. Fantastic game.
# 3 BIGROC @ 08/18/09 02:43 PM
I love the game, and agree with just about everything. I got through the Medium circuit, albeit with less than stellar performances. I've hit the proverbial wall on hard....Getting onto one giant sphere is challenge enough....But to have to get from one to the next, over a fire pit truely gets maddening...But yet I sat there for 35 min berfore deciding my sanity needed a break.

The one huge downfall is the user content sharing. Luckily I've had 2 friends create a track each, and it's fun to belittle their efforts by besting their times, but I really wish the community could share it all. If that were to happen via a patch, there'd be no stopping how great the game would be.
# 4 Hoos @ 08/18/09 04:13 PM
Couldn't agree more!!! Every time I sign into XBL, I go into Trials HD to make sure that my top lap time is still intact amongst the friends on my list, LOL!!

Great game and nice write up Jayson!!!
# 5 ChaseB @ 08/18/09 06:18 PM
Heart this god-forsaken game.
# 6 thmst30 @ 08/18/09 08:57 PM
I played the PC version a few times a couple years ago, but never could get into it. However I am ADDICTED to it on the 360. Fairly deep and so well done. I've actually been playing it just as much as Madden this past week. Some of the courses are insanely difficult, but as the review said I don't feel like giving up as I would in other games. Instead the game compels me to keep trying until I get it right.
# 7 DubTrey1 @ 08/19/09 03:40 PM
Yep, it is a good game. I actually bought this one off of Live.
# 8 RayDog253 @ 08/20/09 12:04 PM
I might have to buy this one. Played the demo thought it was cool, I liked the whole physics part about it.
# 9 wolverine2481 @ 08/24/09 08:56 PM
Yeah I had the chance to play with hoos. This game rock yeah it may be difficult at times, but is way to addictive just to get mad and quit. I love this game its way too fun.
# 10 Amberjhons @ 09/10/09 09:41 AM
I dodn't think it's a good game.

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