I recently had the opportunity to play RedLynx’s upcoming Trials Rising, the latest in the physics-based motorcycle racing game that was announced at E3 2018. Now, I am not a regular player of the series, with the only Trials game I had previously played being the flash game back in the glory days of Newgrounds. As such, the jump in quality between the two is rather staggering, though the core gameplay has remained largely the same.
For those of you who have never played a trials game, it is a 2D (or 2.5D for all you pedants out there) motorcycle riding game in which players have to navigate tracks with difficult terrain in the fastest time possible. It is a simple idea, but the simplicity is part of the appeal. Similarly, the games are notoriously difficult, but again failing is where a lot of the fun derives. You will see your little motorcycle rider fly off his bike to hilariously and horrifically break every bone in his body repeatedly throughout.
The constant failure is mitigated by the speed with which you can try the level again. Failure is not punished and even encouraged, as emphasized by the biker crashing or exploding whenever you complete a level. As I said before, the core gameplay has remained the same over the years, and so it is in the details where the change has occurred. One major gameplay addition is in the challenges you can complete. Rather than just trying to complete a track in the quickest time, you may be given specific tasks or criteria to achieve while riding. This could be as basic as ‘don’t die more than five times’ or be more tricky, such as accomplishing a certain number of flips in a single jump.
The game looks stunning, with its polished modern graphics making the high-speed accidents all the more gratifying. The level design makes full use of the game’s visuals by having maps set across the world; one minute you are driving through a U.S. construction site and the next you are trying to scale Mount Everest, each with their own set of obstacles to conquer.
The physics are also very fun, allowing you to try to flip in the air as you leap over a gorge, only to break your neck on the other side. The game runs very smoothly, which is necessary for a fast-paced game like Trials Rising. The map has also been updated from previous Trials entries, as instead of a simple list of levels, Trials Rising features a large global map showcasing all the different races currently available. By completing tournament races across the world you unlock new locations, difficulties, and challenges.
Customization has been expanded greatly in Trials Rising. Previously (or so I’m told), you could only customize your motorcycles, with the rider always remaining as a generic biker. Well, now you can customize the rider into whatever ridiculous appearance you wish. While I was playing, for example, I decided to make my rider a purple skinned, hot-pants loving man wearing a horse head adorned with a Fu Manchu style mustache. When playing online with the other writers in attendance, it was a lot of fun to see the myriad other players, each with their own unique, stupid style. You can also customize your victory pose, so you can feel even prouder when winning as you see your purple and orange colored cowboy slapping his bum at the other players.
Along with rider and motorcycle customization, the map editor has also been greatly expanded from previous Trials entries. Players can quickly design their own maps and even test them as they build. There are over eight thousand different objects and obstacles that players can choose from, including all objects found in previous Trials games. This allows players to remake all the maps from previous games (which will no doubt occur about five minutes after its release), along with whatever ridiculous, penis-shaped maps they wish. You can also easily modify any maps made by other players, allowing you to take someone else’s good idea and make whatever tweaks you want.
The online content seems very fun and easy to use. Unlike previous entries, in which all other players appeared as white dots racing ahead of you, your competitors now appear as translucent ghosts. This gives a much closer connection towards other players, making it more gratifying when you win the race. On Nintendo Switch, you also have a Party Mode, allowing up to four players to race against each other on the same device. One fun mode I used on Switch was to play Party Mode on a Tandem bike, in which two players must work together to use the same bike. This leads to arguments about who screwed up making both players fall into an explosive pit, which forms the basis of all long lasting friendships.
Overall, Trials Rising seems like it will be a fun ride (geddit?). It is a simple game but very well executed, which is refreshing in this modern era of triple-A, overproduced tripe. The game knows what it is trying to accomplish and does so almost flawlessly. It is, of course, a game that is aimed at a niche audience; if the idea of a motorcycle racing game based around over the top crashes does not appeal to you, then Trials Rising has nothing to offer you. If, however, that does sound like something you would enjoy, then you could do no better than buying Trial Rising.
Trials Rising is released on Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One on February 26. Players can currently register for the closed beta over on the game’s website.