Trials Evolution review for XBLA

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: RedLynx
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

So hey guys, Trials Evolution? Pretty fantastic! Brought to you by the same folks behind previous entries, Evolution is an incredible follow-up to the insanely addicting Trials HD, and marks the first XBLA game to get it?s Gamerscore bumped up to the 400 point range. Along with the Gamerscore increase, you?ve got a lot of content packed into this $15 title, including a solid multiplayer mod that feels like an extra layer of icing on an already delicious cake.

But really, it?s all about the actual Trials, the single player content that makes up the meat of the game. Like previous entries, you?ll mount a number of different dirt bikes and ride out on some really tough tracks that incorporate the equivalent of real world physics in a not quite realistic setting. You?ll flip, bunny hop, and wheelie your way across a number of stages, this time broken up in a difficulty progression that?s not nearly as maddening as Trials HD.

The stage designs are all pretty incredible, featuring some really stand out levels that?ll be sure to catch your attention, including a really neat homage stage to another popular XBLA title. The stages all come with leaderboard rankings, which will constantly shove your friend?s scores (and ghosts) in your face to keep you coming back for more. Each stage has three medals to earn, bronze, silver and gold, and earning medals is how you progress through the single player content.

Along with medal earnings, you?ll get cash rewards for completing Trials, which can be spent on superficial gear for both your rider and bike. None of this has any impact on performance, but does help to set you apart when you take your game online.

The online multiplayer is pretty fun, provided it works well. I did have some connection issues, and screen tearing seems to be a constant problem while playing online, but rarely happens when going through the single player game. You can go head to head with four players while playing Supercross, or can compete against ghost players in online Trials mode. The online mode has a ranking system for unlocks, but there?s not enough content doled out online to really make that element feel worthwhile.

What really makes Trials Evolution so much fun to play are the controls, and the physics of the game, which combine to make an incredibly addictive experience just like its predecessors. The controls feel spot on, and while you?ll screw up plenty while racing across all the tracks, it?s pretty much guaranteed to always be your fault. Getting a handle on each bike, their weight, thrust, and how to land jumps appropriately is key to victory, and it can take a long time to really master the controls depending on your prior experience with the series. But once the feel of the game starts to click, its hooks are already dug in, and chances are they won?t let go for a while.

The visuals have been ratcheted up in Evolution as well, with a lot more going on in the environment than ever before. You?ve still got your comedic effect endings with explosions and nose dives off of random cliffs, but within a lot of stages you?ll see other things coming at you and changing the direction of the courses, whether its giant spiked metal balls, a rotating world, or some other gimmick. These little additions give the game a certain WOW factor that?ll be sure to draw in even a casual observer.

Also, there?s a bit more to Evolution than just your standard courses. There are also some really unique events that range from a Monkey Ball like course that has you guiding a giant metal ball across a very narrow path, to an event that has you piloting a UFO while trying to make a number of landings along a course. These little oddball events add some nice variety to just running around on a dirt bike, and are definitely appreciated additions.

And overall the game runs extremely well on the 360. Outside of the aforementioned screen tearing, which does rarely occur outside of multiplayer, the game keeps a pretty rock solid framerate even with all the background action that goes on in each stage. Loading is minimal, and it?s easy as can be to restart either a check point or an entire level with almost no waiting time before you restart. Menu navigation is pretty minor, and even jumping into a multiplayer match doesn?t take much time at all. My experience with the game has been extremely smooth, and I certainly appreciate the level of polish this game seems to have in just about every area.

So yeah, you should totally buy this. It?s super addictive, incredibly fun, and comes off as an extremely worthy successor to Trials HD. If you skipped out on the first XBLA entry for whatever reason, then don?t miss this one. It?s seriously better in every way imaginable, and it manages to exceed my every expectation.

Grade: A-