Way back in the day when controllers only had two buttons, there was a cool physics-based motorcycle game called Excitebike. The game even included a level editor so you could create your own tracks, a revolutionary feature at the time, although there was no way to save any of your creations (unless you had a Japanese console – you could save if you owned the cassette tape peripheral).
Fast-forward 25 years and Trials: Evolution kicks off the Arcade NEXT promotion with a cool physics-based motorcycle game with a comprehensive level editor that races out of the gate and into contention as an early candidate for Arcade Game of the Year. This game is so full of features that you'd pay full price at the game store without batting an eye, yet it's available now on Arcade for only 1200 Microsoft Points.
Download Trials: Evolution here (1200 Microsoft Points)
The original Trials HD was a huge hit on Arcade, a 2-D side-view motocross racer that sold millions of copies. The controls were quite simple, just throttle and tilt. Set in a gloomy, claustrophobic warehouse, the courses were convoluted routes requiring precisely timed jumps and perfect landings. It had a pretty steep difficulty curve, however, and rage quitting after crashing 50 times in the exact same place was not uncommon (in other words, hardcore players loved it).
This time around, Trials: Evolution blasts out of the box and into more than a hundred beautifully detailed wide-open environments that have to be seen to be believed. One level you're tearing through an active warzone, the next through a jungle temple, the next through a destroyed city with cars exploding left and right. It's like racing through a movie set. Some stages include nods to other Arcade favorites, such as LIMBO and Ms. 'Splosion Man. There's even a ridiculous over-the-top death scene at the conclusion of every race.
You can use the cash you earn to buy gear for your rider, but I never saw the point. All it does is change the appearance of your rider, and you never develop much of an affection for him anyway (unlike, say, Joe Danger).
The difficulty ramps up much less gradually, and even Trials rookies will have a blast with the Easy and Medium levels. Time your jumps and hit your landings (and don't crash) to score a Gold Medal. More medals unlock new courses, license tests, and even Side Quests. Don't worry, hardcore players, the challenge is still here – clear all 135 stages to open up Extreme, a series of brutally difficult tracks that include some old favorite from Trials HD.
Side Quests and Multiplayer
The Side Quests are quick little challenges that … don't make a whole lot of sense. I think these bizarre mini-games are more to illustrate the power of the level editor (more on that later) than anything else. Try to pilot a UFO or roll a ball through a maze or launch yourself in the air as far as possible.
Multiplayer lets you go up against your friends, whether on or offline, for four-player motocross competition. You can also play online against a friend's ghost to try and better his time.
As if everything else in the game wasn't enough, RedLynx has also included a complete level editor, a powerful tool that lets you create your own levels, or even your own games. This is the exact same software the developers used to create Trials: Evolution (and all the side quests). You're not limited to racing games, either – you can make a pinball game if you want, or a first-person shooter. Seriously.
What's more, you can upload your creations to Xbox LIVE or download levels and games created by other users. I can't wait to see what the community comes up with once this powerful game creation software is unleashed to Xbox LIVE users. Camera angles, screen filters, physics sliders -- I could write a whole article about the level editor, but suffice it to say it comes in a Lite and Pro version, and if you're interested there's an excellent series of tutorial videos available on YouTube that will walk you through every step of the process.
This eagerly anticipated sequel certainly delivers on the promise of the earlier game, with outrageous levels, goofy side quests, intense leaderboard competition, competitive multiplayer and a full suite of game creation tools. Arcade NEXT is underway, and you can't go wrong with Trials: Evolution for some full-throttle racing excitement.