As you boot up Trials Fusion a song bursts out welcoming you to the future. Despite this confident statement, the future of Trials isn’t really worth singing about. Trials fusion is a really awesome game, but this future is very like the past. Trials Fusion isn’t the brave new world it claims to be, but it’s another really well put together instalment in a great series.
The core of Trials remains the same. You ride a motorbike through a series of tracks, navigating crazy obstacles by leaning your rider and controlling your throttle. The end result is a unique feeling platformer where you have to skilfully traverse environments. Tracks get increasingly difficult and eventually become incredibly taxing.
Developer Red Lynx have become very proficient at designing tracks that take full advantage of their gameplay. Stages are fun throughout, but the later ones really test your skill. You have to pull off some very precise manoeuvres and display an impressive level of knowledge. There’s a lot to consider at every stage and slight alterations make huge differences. Your leaning needs to be exact and your acceleration always appropriate. The levels show off how complex the games is and require a lot from the player – in a really satisfying way.
The other important part is medals. It’s all about medals. Towards the end getting through a stage is challenge enough, but before that it’s all about getting gold. This is achieved by beating a par time for the track and getting below the allowed number of faults. Throughout each stage there are checkpoints, if you crash you can press circle to instantly restart from the last one, but doing that adds a fault to your run. Checkpoints are very regular and (usually) sensibly placed, so they mean that most people will be able to get through most tracks by pure attrition. However, the real fun comes from trying to use as few checkpoints as possible, the illusive zero fault run.
Playing levels until you get them right is a lot of fun. The instant restarts (no sitting through loading screens) ensure the momentum never stops, making the trial and error nature extremely palatable. The ability to hit a button to instantly restart your run is also nice, meaning you don’t have to waste time on a run that’s going south. Seeing ghosts of past runs helps as well, complimented by a notification under your current time telling you how far ahead or behind of your best run you are. You always feel like you can shave a second off your time - maybe more - just by playing smarter. You have to know exactly how far you can push pure acceleration before you have to take things slow, and know just how to land to set you up for the next jump. Getting the medals is challenging and fun, but the whole experience is even better if you get some leaderboard competition going with your friends.
One slight problem with the medals is that progression is structured around them. This is a blessing and a curse, as it does motivate you to push yourself rather than coast by, but this also saps some momentum from progression. Excellent players have nothing to fear, but lesser players just wanting to get through all of the tracks will be locked out. This is fine for the first two-thirds of the game, where the real appeal of any track is nailing it rather than completing it. However, the back end is insanely hard (in a fun way) and getting through a stage starts to feel as satisfying as a gold on past tracks. I got to the stage where I had loads of golds early on, but my progression to the final set of levels was halted because of my poor performance in late game stages.
This isn’t a big issue, as the game rewards skill very nicely. The roadblock created by medal based progression did incentivise me to get more out of the game. It made me go back and keep retrying and this was actually really fun. However, I felt like I could make it through the later levels (mostly by pure attrition) and that I wanted to play more stages. But, some of stages before were too challenging for me to post decent times and I didn’t want to return to them. This is more a personal issue than a problem with the game, as it won’t affect everyone, but for the few like me… Be warned.
One addition to Fusion is a skill system; you can now move your rider around with the right stick and pull off tricks. There’s no incentive to do these in basic stages, but there are a number of special stunt stages which focus purely on high scoring runs. It’s a pretty imprecise skill system that is heavily affected by the physics engine - like everything else in the game. What this means is that you can’t just rattle off tricks like in a Tony Hawk game, it’s a lot more approximate. This feel does match the game nicely though, it’s a lot of fun just to fiddle about with. It’s loose enough that you don’t have to be exact and you can just hold the stick in a direction to see what happens. This care free play is fun, but some more exact stages lessen this as moves don’t come out like you want and it doesn’t feel like your fault. The system isn’t quite as exact and robust as it needs to be, though pushing tricks as far as you can to keep multipliers up is just fun. It’s a nice little addition, but it isn’t anything substantial.
Trials Fusion may just be more Trials – a new level pack, so to speak. However, it is a really robust package with a lot of content. It’s full of secrets and varied modes – basically there is just a lot of quality content. There’s multiplayer options, basic customisation, a robust editor (that works OK with a controller but isn’t hugely intuitive) and just a large amount of great Trials stages. It is compulsively replayable and incredibly enjoyable. I don’t know how much longer Red Lynx can get away with putting out just Trials again, but this time it works and they are still very good at it. Maybe it’s because it is on new hardware (and it does benefit from being the first Trials game on PlayStation for that segment of the audience) and maybe it’s because the core gameplay is so solid that all you want is imaginative new stages. Trials Fusion fits this bill nicely, making it a game well worth your time.
Welcome to the future!
Trials Fusion is definitely another Trials game, but quality content helps to make this a good thing!