Considering the 2D physics biking of Trials has always originated on the PC platform, it’s odd how its most culturally relevant incarnations have always been as arcade releases on Xbox Live. 2012′s Trials Evolution came a long way from the flash games the series originated as and, with more varied challenges and robust creation tools, it became a bit of a hit on Microsoft’s XBLA platform.
It’s coming up to the first anniversary of Trials Evolution’s release, and the game is now finally available on the system that spawned its deliciously addictive challenges. The transition is a largely smooth one, retaining much of the majesty of the original game, adding a few decent additions, but also crippling the game in the process due to a frustrating graphics glitch.
The first and most obvious alteration is the controls. As with the majority of contemporary console ports, you can use a USB controller, a choice that is easily preferable to the lacking keyboard controls. Trials, by its very mechanics of leaning, hinges upon the analogue precision that you can’t get on a standard keyboard set up. That, and holding the “up” key to go forward just seems a little counter-intuitive. I wasn’t able to test a particularly large variety of USB controllers, but a wired Xbox 360 controller was easily recognized and worked wonders.
Graphics are often a major issue with any PC conversion and, though there aren’t the usually precise selections of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filters seen in other PC titles, there’s a little bit more graphical tinkering available than on the Xbox 360 version of Trials. They’re mostly reflections and other detail settings, but it’s enough. It’s also made easy by the fact that, regardless of your settings, Trials Evolution is still a great looking game.
There is one huge issue though regarding AMD cards. Anyone with such a card will find some rather crippling frame rate issues, regardless of their settings and system power. The problem is supposedly totally absent when using Nvidia chipsets but, as I only had the one review system to work with, I wasn’t able to confirm this. That said, until this issue is fixed, be wary if you have such a system. It’s not the worst FPS drop ever, but it’s enough to ruin the finesse of Trials’ gameplay.
Outside of these presentation and control changes, the core game remains unaltered on PC. For those unfamiliar with Trials, this is nothing to be concerned by. The simple act of leaning in the right way to stay on your bike is made into behemoth challenges by the increasingly creative level design on display throughout.
Bike upgrades and cosmetic additions keep you coming back for more, and the learning curve is just right to prevent the game from ever becoming too overwhelming. It’s a brilliant and oddly original slice of 2.5D gameplay, and the additional track variety brought in for Trials Evolution continues to shine a year later. This Gold collection also bundles in all the levels from the equally excellent Trials HD. As one of the most popular XBLA games ever, Trials HD’s stages are a welcome addition, and add up to offer impressive value for money.
The amount of solo content will keep you occupied for some time, but things get really crazy when you consider the sheer quantity of user created content on offer. The on-board level editor is simple, yet hugely effective and, if the Xbox 360 fan base is anything to go by, you can expect some impressive creations to continuously test your skills on account of this. The editor itself is also hugely bolstered by the precision of the mouse and keyboard setup, something you’ll only get with the Gold edition of Trials Evolution.
Sharing and downloading new created tracks is just as simple an affair as it was on 360, with minimal button clicks separating you and the ever-dedicated Trials community. A particularly interesting addition to the PC version is the ability to quickly share replays of your best runs to Youtube and Facebook directly. I normally shudder at the thought of “nerding up” my social media accounts with game replays (I don’t want all my friends to realise how much time I spend playing games just yet), but this is the kind of thing that some of the more vocal Trials players are likely to get a real kick out of.
It’s a shame then that, after years of absence, Trials’ return to PC is a case of one step forward and two steps back. The additional sharing options, along with map editor mouse and keyboard control support make the social side of Trials an absolute joy on PC. That said, the controls stink on keyboard and, though this can be easily rectified by using a controller, the frame rate issues present with AMD graphics cards are going to impact a huge amount of potential buyers.
For the purposes of scoring Trials Evolution Gold though, these issues won’t be taken into account, as those with Nvidia cards won’t have any issues at all. It’s still a great game if you can work around these issues, and the score reflects that. If you have an AMD card and/or no USB controller alternatives though, expect the experience to be significantly worse.
This game was reviewed on PC.