Trials by Red Lynx has to be the single most masochistic gaming experience of my young life. The game is hard. And not just hard, super superlative descriptor hard. It’s certainly entertaining, but its long-lasting enjoyment will be a direct correlation of how stubborn you are as a player. Allow me to explain.
Trials is a physics game that mimics the actual event of Motorcycle Observed Trials. Observed Trials isn’t racing. Instead, it’s a test of concentration, balance, and rider skill to overcome obstacles in a defined section of course. Trials does a good job of capturing this aesthetic. You need to slow down, think, and approach sections of the course with a more strategic mindset than you would in actual racing games. Maxing out the throttle and going as fast as you can is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Trials is the first of a series, but I’m talking about it first because it’s the easiest. The most recent Trials game, Trials: Mountain Heights, would be nightmarishly difficult to a first-time Trials player. The designers at Red Lynx became very keen at understanding why a section is difficult, and they really take difficulty to a bold new era of frustration with Mountain Heights.
The player controls are immediately simple: up and down control throttle, and left and right control rider position and induce rotation. Your rider will change positions from squatting back to leaning forward as you move left to right. Different positions work well in different situations. For instance, you’ll need to lean all the way forward when you climb steep hills. Throwing your weight forward from a rearward position is required to clear some obstacles, too.
The scoring in Trials is subtractive. That is, a score of zero is a perfect score. A crash is worth 5 points and there are several time penalties if you take longer than one minute. While the game does have the time pressure of a two-minute cutoff, that’s more than enough time to finish a section after you get used to the controls.
As with most great physics games, though, the real control exists one level abstracted from the input. Careful management of your rider’s stance is required to avoid losing control of the bike and flipping over. There is a lot of nuance required to master the game. Stable landings and climbing over ruts are much more difficult than they may appear to an observer.
The physics in Trials are spring-based. The bike and rider appear to be contraptions composed of several springs. Your rider’s position is changed by modifying the lengths of these springs. While it’s great to have a unified system like this to describe both the bike and rider, it does feel a little spongy at times. There’s a lot of dampening that can negatively affect your wheels’ traction. It is possible to collapse the springs of the bike with a hard impact, too, which can be annoying, especially when it happens on an otherwise flawless landing.
After playing the later games in the sequel, Trials is actually easy for me now, which is somewhat alarming. I can pass all of the levels with a perfect zero and barely break a sweat, which is stark contrast to the leg-punching frustrating I felt when I first played the game. Personally I find games like this fascinating—I can’t help but play it over and over again until I can perfect my ability.
Trials is one of the great physics games and a neat implementation of a unique sport. It’s a good game to play in short time segments and the perfect challenge for physics game lovers. Can you get a perfect score?
- Trials HD Headed to Xbox 360
- The Beginning
- Trials 2SE Visual Upgrade, Same Great Physics
- Hot Biscuit Flash Motorcycle Trials