|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: RedLinx||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The game's main mode is a series of 35 single tracks, and by earning medals in one skill level, you work toward unlocking the next. You also unlock faster bikes and new events in the other modes. The records are posted to online leaderboards.
Next up is tournament mode, in which you have to score well on multiple tracks in a row. These eight challenges take the game's normal repetitiveness to a whole new level, because when you crash, you can lose entire tracks' worth of progress. We found this to be a bit more trouble than it was worth, though it certainly provided an extra challenge.
Most interestingly, there's "Skill Games" mode, in which you participate in 12 over-the-top stunts. These include riding inside (and later, on top of) a huge hamster ball-like contraption, bailing out of the bike and skiing through the air, dragging a wagon of bombs behind you without making them blow up, and climbing up a ridiculously steep ramp. The absurd nature of these challenges can make them feel a bit silly, but they provide a great break from the (sometimes gratuitously) difficult other modes.
For those willing to invest some time putting together their own tracks, there's a level editor. According to the developers, it's the same editor they used to program the included tracks, and you can share your creations with your friends online. We found the editor reasonably easy (if not very exciting) to use, and it adds a potentially infinite amount of replay value to the game. It would be nice for the developers to put together a collection of the best user-created tracks, though, so people besides the creators' friends could see them.
On a technical level, Trials HD didn't make a whole lot of demands on the developers; at heart it is, after all, two-dimensional. Nonetheless, the team went out of its way to polish the game's presentation to a shine. The tracks are depicted in three dimensions, with oodles of detail and some realistic lighting effects, and even some nice explosions. The controls are incredibly precise (which is good given the extremely low margin of error). The sound isn't the best, especially the bad voice acting and cheesy music of the intro screen, but the engine roar is quite satisfying. Most important, nothing about the way Trials HD is put together feels rushed, and that's a clear sign that everyone involved in making the game cared.
Again, this title appeals to a fairly narrow subset of gamers. By the very nature of its genre, it can be maddeningly frustrating and repetitive, and this tendency increases markedly as you unlock harder courses. For these select few gamers, however, this is a must-buy, because it's not often that a top-notch time-trial game comes around. We suspect that a lot of Xbox 360 owners will be spending a lot of time perfecting tracks, winning tournaments, and designing courses over the next few months.
CCC Freelance Writer