Very few games make me laugh, and I wasn’t expecting Trials Rising to be one of them.
Trials Rising is a game, ostensibly, about taking your motorbike of choice and driving it to the end of a short track. Along the way you’ll have to plow through construction sites, gunfights, collapsing buildings and even movie studios. It’s a simple task, moving on a 2D plane from left to right and trying to survive the obstacles and set a good time. Come off, and you’ll go back to the next checkpoint.
However, it nails something fundamental about humour I don’t think I’ll ever personally grasp with any real success. There’s something inherently hilarious about failure or the way you come off your bike when jolted against obstacles, smashing into dumpsters, explosive barrels or even a wrecking ball.
Consistently I’d find myself chuckling at the way you collide with something at the end of each track or even the Buster Keaton-esque way you try avoid a crash when you lose control, skidding across the track on your back wheel, head skimming inches from the ground as you desperate wiggle your analogue sticks to try and regain control or, at the very least, stay upright long enough to hit the next checkpoint.
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I played through Trials Rising on the PC, and if you’re playing with a controller it handles well. Most of the movement in Trials Rising is done through equal parts intuition and Scaletrix logic, leaning your rider forwards or backwards through the course to try and maintain balance, feathering the accelerator to ensure you don’t come off any time there’s a significant turn or bump.
Play it on a keyboard and all of this stuff is nearly impossible with the binary buttons, but otherwise it controls like a dream, which is convenient because Trials Rising starts difficult and doesn’t really let off. I struggled to finish several of the earlier missions with a gold star rating, and even clicked my fingers with frustration a few times after failing what appears to be a simple obstacle for the 15th time.
This isn’t the ‘Dark Souls’ of motorcycle games, but you will hit the ground rolling about as often as you do in From Software’s fantasy action RPG.
You’ll explore some phenomenal environments: there are a lot of different locales around the US and while ultimately you’re just going from left to right, there’s some great scenery rolling past in the background. Often, you’ll see a cool environmental detail just as you splatter into a ramp at a weird angle, or a cool particle effect will help create a good screenshot as you sling your bike into a backflip over a ramp before you inevitably crumple into the ground.
The beginner tracks are tricky, but from there it gets downright fiendish, and several times the correct response is to pump the brakes and try to examine the problem ahead of you as if you were doing a cryptic crossword. However, it’s often more fun to try and keep your speed up and try to push through, so inevitably you’ll end up doing that and wiping out, eventually growing cautious enough to approach it slowly to try and work out a route past before inevitably losing control again because you’re just not going fast enough.
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On one level, now I play Trials Rising like I’d play Wipeout, and this is how i’d recommend it. Haring through every level at top speed may not be the most sound decision ever made in a strategic sense, but there’s a real sense of kineticism to it that makes it enjoyable even if you just get pasted consistently. Eventually you’ll grasp the language of the game and be able to carry on through, but then you’ll still get confused as something springs to life below you, catapulting you into the nearest wall or springing you into the skies to link up with the next part of the calamitous track.
The game has a level-up system that runs parallel to the racing that has you slowly unlocking new features and also gear crates, which are basically just loot boxes you unlock through play. They hand out random chunks of cosmetics, and invariably you’ll just get a handful of stickers for the game’s complicated sticker menu, making it possible to unlock several different styles of the numeral 2 before you ever unlock a cool leather shirt with flames on it.
This is annoying because the sticker system is powerful, allowing you to slap stickers on your clothes and different parts of your bike without issue, but often it just feels every sticker you get is just a drop in the ocean, and you never get the exact thing you want, meaning the main thing that the loot box doles out for your time investment here is disappointment. This was probably not the effect that the team were going for.
In terms of multiplayer, Trials Rising’s online offering is a little weak: there’s a global multiplayer mode that lets you race with several people in ghost mode to try and get the best time. You can’t directly impact each other, but I found it did let me chat with others as I plowed through level after level. Points are assigned based on final placements, and at the end of three races a winner is crowned.
This particularly sucks because the local multiplayer lets you up the slapstick ratio with a tandem bike which lets two people plow around the place bumbling around like idiots. Elsewhere there are party modes that can let up to four people race against each other locally. These are all chaotic which is kind of Trials Rising’s whole raison d’etre, so it fits. Tandem bikes, especially, are an absolute joy and you will absolutely destroy any relationship you bring on board to the tandem ride which seems to be exactly what Trials wants.
At only £19.99 across digital platforms, Trials Rising offers excellent value with an impressive array of tracks and tournaments to progress through. Players after a robust arcade experience can’t go wrong with this price, and it makes Rising even easier to recommend for newcomers and fans alike.
Trials Rising isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it achieves what it sets out to do with aplomb. It’s a simple concept, executed with flair, and if that’s not worth applauding then what is?
It’s also worth applauding as a return to form for the Trials franchise, which hasn’t made much of an impact with its recent releases, but here still manages to feel like a polished release that can stand up amongst a recent period of solid AAA releases.