Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trials Evolution: Why this might be the XBLA game of the year

"How about a collapsing dam?" thought those clever physics-obsessed Fins. "Or the D-day landing beaches? Or a network of planks and swings hanging from balloons that are floating five hundred metres high?" In truth, they built themselves an editing and scripting tool that would allow them to create side-on stunt shows wherever their imagination desired.

What's more, they decided to package the editor (and the 2x4 km terrain map it plonks extra scenery onto) into the game itself. Trials Evolution is set to create social and user-generated revolution on XBLA, as well as providing a legion of imaginative things for a flailing biker body to break itself against...
Let's concentrate on the 'Junior Kickstart' basics. Compared to Trials HD, Evolution's learning curve is a lot gentler and it'll make sure that you've been taught the necessary tricks through License Tests. Sets of track events, meanwhile, will be unlocked through the gradual build-up of points accrued from gold, silver and bronze medals in bouts of muddy limb-breakage.

As for the seventy events themselves, well, they're imaginative. "Before it was just: warehouses and boxes." Explains Creative Director Antti Ilvessuo. "Every level was the same. In Trials HD it was really hard to explain to someone what level you were on. Now every level has a unique theme, idea and story."
Success in Trials will always come about through a delicate balance of throttle and the weight your rider places on it to angle it correctly as it hurtles towards the ground. The settings for this, however, aren't so much off the wall - as bouncing a front tyre off the front of it and doing a double backflip.
One notable Event takes place in an Inception-style mind bubble - the terrain revolves, buildings construct themselves, you leap through cubes of floating water, you drive along previously vertical walls and, ultimately, your prostrate body is carried out on a plinth like Neo at the close of the final (awful) Matrix movie.

Goodbye warehouse...
"This is the mindset: you have to break the rules, you have to surprise the player." continues Ilvessuo. "Always have something new: all the time. It's the same with the levels. It'd be really easy to make five floating maps, but when we do it like this people are like: "What's next? What's next?".

So you'll be leaping over helicopters, through film noir film-sets and dodging wrecking balls - but your prize won't simply be making sure you've beaten the ghost of a time recorded by one of your online buddies. RedLynx are eccentric types (so eccentric that they have a massive wrestling mat as the centrepiece of their studio, and frequently have a grapple to sort out disagreements) and have ensured that every event ends with carnage.

The body of your rider might be crushed by a falling piano and serenaded by fireworks, bombed by the Luftwaffe or unceremoniously dropped into a toilet. There's an odd sense of humour at work here, but it genuinely works - at times making you wait up to a minute for hilarious calamity to befall your medal-winning corpse.

Away from the tumbles you'll take on Evolution's courses is a level editing and sharing suite so impressive that Little Big Planet's Media Molecule could be tempted to pick up their ball and go home. The Lite version allows you to deposit a track wherever you choose to over the large chunk of terrain provided by RedLynx - lovingly pasting a selection of the game's 1500 different objects on a course that can later be judged by friends and strangers alike online.

The Pro Editor, meanwhile, is so powerful that it those with a development-mindset and a love for logic gates can take Evolution far beyond the realms of motorbike gaming. On our visit to the RedLynx studio we saw the limits of the system being pushed with (admittedly rudimentary) first person shooters, flight sims, recreations of table football and top-down racers. You can be assured that the community creations that Trials Evolution will conjure up will be legendary.

At a more basic level, however, the incredible range of revving noises that the Trials Evolution engine can kick out allows for additional skill games that go a lot of way to encouraging skilful vanilla Trials play. There's a mode that sees you try and get as far along a track as possible using as little throttle as possible for example, struggling to conserve a limited reservoir of petrol.

Then there's a game that straps skis to your driver - backflipping his way over a range of snowy jumps and teaching your more about balance and leg-breaks. On top of this: UFO flying, sphere navigation and friendly riffs on both 'Splosion Man and Angry Birds. There's even a mode that ties planks of wood to your arms and tells you 'Press A to flap'. If you hadn't worked it out already, and apologies for the impending capitalisation, Trials Evolution is MENTAL. (Sorry.)

What, meanwhile, would Trials be without a spot of competition? As well as a bevy of online comparison hi-jinks you and your associates will not only be able to tackle Events simultaneously (with the ghosts of your competitors on-screen) but will also be able to compete side-by-side in four-player races locally and online.
These are ridiculous fun - and, when selected as such, come with the option to blast your rider off your bike and over the line at the race's end. This will, no doubt, result in many gamepads being bounced off walls (and the heads of your loved ones) once the game is in the wild.

Trials Evolution looks nothing short of a triumph. It would've been impressive with its ridiculously imaginative solo campaign alone, but considering the depths of its online and sharing systems and the wealth of possibilities engendered by its Editor it boggles the mind. The days of warehouses and boxes are truly over. Viva la Evolution.

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