If you've ever had the honour of playing Excitebike, then consider Trials HD a wonderfully similar game, just designed for this era. It has the fancy presentation we expect from a next-gen arcade game, yet somehow manages to capture the essence of Excitebike's entertainment. The focus is on fun, not just bells and whistles. Excitebike tasked you to not only beat your opponent, but conquer the obstacle course-like tracks outright. With mere shifts in the player's weight on the bike's front and end, it was possible to overcome anything. Trials HD doesnít really feature racing, but it builds on that exact weight-shifting formula. Of course there are major differences, but the game is still played on a 2D field.
The most noticeable contrast is the influence of real-world physics. A shift too far back causes the bike to flip out of control and put a hurting on your rider; too far up-front can result in an even nastier outcome. Thankfully, Trials does well in settling players into everything, breaking down the courses by their overall difficulty. Now I should mention that I pretty well suck at this game; Iím terrible. I didnít have too much trouble on the beginner/easy tracks, but all hell broke loose after unlocking the medium courses. I must have restarted, from checkpoints, about twenty times or more. The insanity only increases with the hard tracks. Prepare to redo those sections at least fifty times. There may be checkpoints scattered everywhere on the courses, but itís irrelevant when you're so many pits and jumps.
Adding insult to injury, your friends' times are compared to yours in real-time, creating a cesspool for annoying bragging rights. Itís also the perfect way to convince players to jump back into a trial to better their lap time. Don't be deceived by the gameplay's simple foundation, Trials HD is all about practice, practice, practice. Now would also be an appropriate time to mention that multiplayer is non-existent here, though constantly seeing your friends perform better than you is classic.
Once youíve had your fill of the thirty-five main courses, a series of insane trick courses await. One has you inside a steel ball, tasking you to stay balanced. Others are slightly more complex. No matter what you decide, your friendsí times are always there, waiting, watching, hauntingÖ
If the difficulty level doesn't scare you away however, prepare for a rocking good time. $15 sounds high for thirty-five courses, but itís actually more than enough. The extra mini-games serve as a nice bonus, but the big surprise is the inclusion of a track editor. Just like Excitebike, Trials allows for user-created tracks. Building something impressive certainly requires a knack, but we're confident that gamers can use the robust tools to accomplish just that. There's a big problem though...not so much with the editor, but rather how the share options work. Unlike LittleBigPlanet, which allows players to cycle through custom-made levels by either their friends or the overall community, Trials HD restricts it to friend-to-friend exchanges. Since the Friend List is limited to 100 people, that severely limits how creative this game could become. On top of that, I could send my pal a track, but he/she has no way of redistributing it. Itís a real shame this wasnít addressed prior to release, because otherwise this title would have scored even higher.
Nonetheless, Trials HD represents its namesake well in both looking and sounding the part. The real-world physics are wonderful, as they animate the character with a whole new level of life. If he falls off, small details like blood trickling down the face plate of his helmet are noticeable. The bike can be completely totalled, and portions of the tracks are also interactive. Everything is impressively detailed for this being an arcade game. Trials joins Shadow Complex and others in Microsoft's killer line-up for the summer season. As for audio, expect some rough rock music to accompany the insane action that takes place on-screen. Hitting a massive jump causes the invisible onlookers to hold their breath in anticipation for your landing. The whole presentation is much better than weíve come to know from the average Xbox Live Arcade game.
Trails HD is one of the most surprisingly addictive game to come along in years. It has an old school appeal with next-gen physics and graphics. I've actually said, ďIíll just try this level one more time to see if I can beat Alexís time.Ē That hasn't happened in a very long time. Needless to say, Alex is a much better player than I. If you buy Trials, prepare to deal with a similar addiction. You too may find that one of your friends is much more skilled, but at the end of the day it doesnít make a lick of difference, because itís the fun you have that truly counts.