Fusion's the third (if you discount the mobile release Frontier) entry of the quite stupidly addictive franchise, that cockily sits, balanced on back wheel, between the boundaries of the racing, platform and puzzle genres.
The core formula remains, the creators over at Red Lynx only tweaking the course-unlocking structure, dabbling with the visual design and screwing in the odd, but for the most, optional additions to the frame. We would argue that the game's less pure as a result, but then the alternative is stagnation. The future is an argument for another time. We can happily tackle one last game's worth of tracks before we get bored.
The studio's done better with the tutorials this time round. The more in-depth tricks in Trials were previously either only eluded to or sometimes a mystery, solutions to which were chanced on. This time, tutorials are placed right at the start of each new world, each containing a handful of tracks to conquer, and signpost the challenges to come. Everybody's taught the skills they'll need. It doesn't stop later tracks from containing areas that'll take longer to overcome than some of the earlier tracks took to breeze through in their entirety.
Trials isn't taking it easier in its old age. And as before, even those first courses come into their own with ghost data culled from your Friends lists challenging you to shave milliseconds off your best time. And even if you can return with bigger, faster bikes unlocked later, they don't always lead to the best times. Experimenting to find the best ride to suit the track becomes its own addiction.
The new is a mixed bag, but you can't argue with the fact that this is the best looking Trials yet. The far-future setting allows Red Lynx to run wild with imaginative locales. You're not only granted some lovely vistas, as tracks transport you above the clouds, over zeppelins, through wind farms and up snow-covered mountains, but there's also a first for Trials: a story of sorts. That hints layered during your races touch on similar ideas seen in Portal make it intriguing, rather than feeling like a straight lampoon.
Each track comes with multiple side-objectives as well, both obvious and obtuse, but always giving you something new to try out. Take, for example, braking just as you race over a tennis court. Pause for a few seconds and the game will load a tennis mini-game that changes camera angle, controls and game type, all for the sake of a laugh. But it shows how robust the game's level editor is - and the team's expanded and redesigned community sub-menu shows they expect players to have a lot of fun with the editor, and expect this to support Fusion long after the last track has been conquered.
We're not entirely sold on the FMX tracks and tricks. Unlocked early on is the ability to pull off mid-air stunts with your rider by yanking the right analog stick here and there. There's a whole set of FMX tracks built into the standard Career mode but they're one of the first that feel more chore than pleasure in the series. It may be because the tricks factor little into the normal races beyond simple showmanship. Happily you can avoid using them for the most part.
But these are minor quibbles. The bike balancing is still perfect, tracks the right side of tricky, the worlds rich in detail. And we'll go against popular consensus - the music's brilliant. With the pull of Friends leaderboards on each track, we'll be playing for a while yet.