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REVIEW

TRIALS EVOLUTION

Whether this sequel to 2009's XBLA hit is worth the money is like asking if breathing's good for you.

RedLynx would have had to work hard to spoil the assured handiwork from the first game. But it's taken the smart track and built on what's gone before. Elongated the frame. Added some bonus features. Packed in handy tutorials. Given it the god-send of local multiplayer, and let it roar onto digital shelves.

Evolution is as addictive, frustrating and joyous as its predecessor. And it's rammed with more features than before. What's not to want?

2.48pm: twenty-eight minutes into Evolution. Three licences dominated. Two challenges dominated. Six to go.

The difficulty gradient is much more gradual this time, and the studio has wisely inserted tutorials in the form of licence tests which divide each stage of Challenges. Each teaches you what in the original seemed like parlour tricks but were essential to progress. Immediately the near-vertical mountains ahead seem conquerable. Not that you won't still mess up and turn the air blue.

Trials Evolution
Some mid-track set pieces are properly stunning in their scale.

The game doesn't let you progress until you're ready. Challenges and Licences stay locked until you've reached combined minimum totals drawn from your medal collection. You'll get a generous way through the game, but as before, getting gold - runs under a set time, no faults - will take perseverance.

Adding (brilliant) insult to injury is the redone leaderboard tracking, your friends' race lines no longer trapped on a top-side graph but now represented by white dots on the race track alongside - and sometimes ahead - of you. It's a great incentive to better their times, and lets you watch their race lines to roughly work out how they managed it.

3.34pm: Golds give way to Silvers, then Bronzes...

And if you get sick of defeat, and you will, you can blow off steam with the returning bonus modes. Tournaments. Tinker with your bike design. Loose yourself in an extremely deep Map Editor that's a replica of what the studio used to build the game. RedLynx expects to see the title's lifeline extend far beyond prefaced track exhaustion. With simple and logical categories and rating systems, the best should easily filter to the top, and fast download speeds of new tracks to trial means near-instant gratification.

It's a packed toolbox of potential and trumps the original for choice.

But with sprawl comes a caveat; Evolution is slightly more unfocused than the tight and lean original. The extension of the campaign is a wise move, allowing much more meat for every level of player before getting to the hard chew of the masterclass. Local multiplayer fits Friday night socials, or any night for that matter, as assuredly as beers and nachos. It's online counterpart, technically veining through its entire frame with campaign leaderboards, is just as fiendishly addictive.

Trials Evolution
Earn cash to customise your rider and ride.

4.15pm: Hit a brick wall. Jumped to custom track editing, built one with loads of hoops to race through. Come practice run, the rider smashes his head on the top of the first one. Back to tinkering.

Yet for the wealth of bonus modes, most extend little past the comedic first goes to secure gold; only a handful are likely to see prolonged plays. Moving the races out of the factory that was the original's solo location into a vibrant and hilarious mix of locations adds plenty to atmosphere - some sights are just plain stunning - but very occasionally background noise can intrude on your understanding of the course.

We're used to fouling first time on tracks, but not because of doubt in split-second decisions as to what's track and what's decoration. But this only happens a handful of times, and come our conquest of leaderboard status, everything but the track gradient and rider physics disappears from our minds.

It's now 8.30pm. Seven days later. We're chasing multiple white dots that buzz ahead of us like flirtatious butterflies and failing to catch up. We're back on the very first track. Somewhere we can hear our friends laughter as they mock our progress.

Trials Evolution
Local MP: a great addition, and your new gaming night stop-off.

But the issues are tiny compared to the entirety. Trials Evolution is a game you can finish in a day, but still be playing this time next year. And knowing our love affair with the original, we say that with some experience. RedLynx has had a blast creating it - there's nods to Limbo, Splosion Man, even Tiny Wings in there, and we're having a blast playing it. Whether alone or with others. Friends and strangers.

The game broaches many barriers. We've had complex discussions of gestures and mimes with non-english speakers as to the necessary physics to make certain jumps. We've watched the pure concentration across multiple faces as groups have tried to beat each other's times in turn. Heard the explosion of roars, insults, laughter, as a local four player race ends with a photo finish.

And across them all, the singular, universal moment: the hand going to lay the controller down, only for a split-second later the pad to be gripped more firmly. The words: "Just one more go."

It happened to us. It'll happen to you. Welcome back Trials.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
+ Builds on the first game with logical extensions. + Local MP is a blast. + Track Editor has plenty of potential.
-
- Not all bonus modes have a long shelf life. - Some backgrounds can be distracting.
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