Monday 10 October 2016

Trials Fusion Awesome Max Edition, by RedLynx (Ubisoft) | review

The Trials series of games are, to the casual glance, so simple that they could have been made on a Spectrum, and, indeed, pretty much were, as fans of Codemasters’ ATV Simulator will remember. You’re just driving a bike along a straight line that sometimes goes up, sometimes goes down, while you lean back and forth to keep it balanced. It’s like the old TV show Kickstart, except you can’t even turn the handlebars. And yet that’s just on the surface. The Trials games put that simplest of ideas into a world built with individual objects and subject to physics, where the slightest nudge here or there can make the greatest difference, and where your rider dies horribly at the end of each level. On some levels it’s a thrill ride, hurtling down a snowy mountain like you’re chasing James Bond, while on harder levels it’s the world’s toughest platformer, as you take a hundred attempts to get over one gnarly jump. And since the levels (once you get the hang of them) only take a few minutes to complete, the games are endlessly replayable in search of a better time. This Xbox One expansion of Trials Fusion improves upon the Xbox 360 version to the extent that it’s well worth a separate purchase. It includes all the DLC, so immediately has an immense range of tracks to ride on, from deserts and ski resorts to various distant, destroyed futures. To cap it all there’s a series of incredible levels where you play as a cat riding a unicorn! These were so popular with my children that one suspects an entirely equestrian spin-off could be very popular – they also liked being able to create a female rider for the regular levels. Another improvement is that loading times are much improved. Part of the appeal of Trials HD was the way you could rattle through half its levels in a half hour lunch break, something lost in the slovenly Xbox 360 version of this game. The checkpoints in Trials Fusion are much closer together than they were in Trials HD, making it possible to muddle your way through hard levels in a way that would have been impossible before. At first this seems disappointing, a sop to lightweights, but it’s as hard as ever to set a good time, and it’s easy to understand why the game’s makers would want lots of players to see all of the cool stuff they have created. And for anyone who misses the real teethgrinding challenges of old, the extreme difficulty levels here are as hard as ever – I’ve yet to pass the first checkpoint in any of them. The game also includes a brilliant local four-player multiplayer mode (allow bailout finishes for maximum fun), a level creator and online game modes, including tournaments where you post your best time and then wait to see where you came, prizes being awarded to those who reach certain positions. I’ve yet to mention what a pretty game it is, but it is, and it really shines with the higher definition of a next-generation console. Stephen Theaker ****

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