Xbox live arcade games are getting so good now that many people are choosing to play them over full-price titles. Last week it was Fez, this time round it's Trials Evolution. The sequel to one of the most enjoyable and addictive titles on the Xbox 360, it's safe to say there is a lot of pressure on this one to perform.
Trials Evo promises a tonne more content than its predecessor, improved graphics and a fully featured multiplayer. On paper it all sounds great, but has it been worth the wait? Or is Trials not even worth the paltry 1200 Microsoft points it costs to download?
New and improved
Boot the game up and you will immediately notice an added level of shine that has been put on everything from in-game menus to music. Graphically everything has been given an overhaul, especially the tracks which now have a lot more life in them than the washed out races of the last game.
Trials HD was more an Xbox Live experiment than a hyped title. This time round developers Redlynx have a lot more fans to deal with, and issues to address. They have clearly deconstructed the whole Trials experience in an effort to improve every aspect of the game.
Looking at the overall structure first, the significant number of single player tracks have been broken down into various sections. There are the core races and licences which increase in difficulty, special events which see you doing things like tearing down ski jumps or trying to get through a track on a single tank of petrol and then tournaments.
On top of this, there is now a proper competitive multiplayer both online and offline, which you can play with up to four other players. Then, finally, there is the track builder and downloader, where you can get yourself user-created content to further bolster the already meaty Trials Evo experience.
Bikes and riders can now be customised to a much higher level, with new parts and outfits being available to buy, and that ability to change the colour of just about anything on your bike. Lots to play with then.
If you aren't yet familiar with what exactly Trials is, a brief word on the core gameplay experience. Essentially Trials Evo is a physics-based racer where you shift the weight of your bike rider back and forward in order to negotiate him through increasingly difficult tracks.
For such a simple concept, it requires an incredible amount of skill, particularly toward the later levels. Your bike is incredibly bouncy and will quite easily flip over if you aren't careful. The result of this gameplay style is a pick up and play formula like no other, you can spend hours gaming or just minutes and still get the same satisfaction.
Trials Evo doesn't change the core experience too much, instead it improves on it. The inability to shift 2D plane you might think would be restrictive, but instead the developers have used it to their advantage. Levels now have multiple platforms at different heights, objects with varied weight, water and all sorts of other obstacles to overcome.
Some stages really bolster the look and feel of the game engine, which is clearly formidable. There are continuous nods to other hit Xbox 360 games, like Limbo, which gets its own motorcross based black and white level.
The single player shouldn't take you more than five hours to get through, which is long enough for a downloadable title. But that is only the beginning, there is multiplayer and track creation still to go.
Once you have skills polished then it's time to take on other players online. Using a four track racecourse, you can either go up against friends locally or use Xbox Live. Matchmaking can be a tad slow, but the game itself has no lag issues whatsoever. It is also incredibly fun and one of the best local multiplayer experiences to be had on the Xbox.
Once you have sunk your teeth into all the online and offline content, it's time to get started either building or downloading tracks. The toolset provided is in either simple or pro form, the latter being more formidable but more complex. Either way we didn't find them hard to use. It's no Little Big Planet but you shouldn't struggle using the track creator.
Downloading others' creations is also very easily and definitely worth exploring. The engine is so incredibly well thought-out that already all sorts of mad levels are appearing. Some don't even involve bikes at all, there are even first person shooters and jet sims.
For a downloadable game, the sheer amount of content alone makes Trials Evo worth a look. The fact that it's so brilliantly fun and simple makes it a "must download".
This is a game that has quickly become a household favourite for local multiplayer. Sessions have been had the remind us of the glory days of Goldeneye. So spend some Microsoft points, invite a few friends over and have a blast.