De ja vroom
Urban Trial Freestyle is an unusual game. Unusual in that it is almost a copy of another incredibly successful game, but a copy that has bettered the original in some ways and then left out what made the original great in others. If you haven’t played Trials HD, I strongly recommend it; you drive a motorbike across a 2d level, just controlling your acceleration, braking and weight shifting. Whilst those controls might sound dull, the level designers have created worlds that take a huge amount of finesse to complete, so you need to master things like momentum and balance in order to progress.
Urban Trial Freestyle gives you a set of worlds, each containing a set of levels. Each level is a gauntlet of jumps, ramps and interactive objects like elevators and tree stumps that can be pushed over. While in essence all you have to do is get to the finish line (a feat much easier than in Trials HD) Urban Trial Freestyle breaks the mold a little bit with collectables strewn about and three or four little challenges within each level, like how high can you jump or how fast can you go past a certain point. All of these get added together for the final score, which of course uses leaderboards to compete with your friends, but then each challenge within the level has a little green line to show you where the highest or furthest jump is. It’s a neat little touch that breaks up some of the longer levels and can easily lead to numerous restarts as you attempt to perfect a jump.
Thankfully those restarts are painless as another feature of Trials HD is borrowed – instant loads. When you press ‘Y’ to reset a checkpoint or ‘back’ to restart a level, it loads instantly. There’s no waiting or animations, you’re just ready to go straight away. When harder maps can take repeated attempts it’s nice to see a developer who cares about streamlining the experience.
Unfortunately the jumps are difficult not because of the map design, but because of the controls. Whereas in Trials you can control the acceleration with a trigger, which has varying degrees of pressure so fine control over your bike, in Urban Trial Freestyle you just use the face buttons on the control. An on/off switch isn’t all that useful when you’re trying to balance and a few sections throughout the game such as elevators and springboards were far more frustrating than they should be thanks to the iffy controls.
The levels themselves are fun and varied, with sections repeating themselves from level to level but a huge amount of animation and moving parts that react to your bike. One moment you’ll be in an office, then an underground train station, then a highway crash, speeding through letting loose all kinds of hell while bystanders look on in horror. The look of the levels is stronger than Trials, but they don’t have the challenge and devilishly tricky climbs that made Trials’ later level so infamous. Each level is fairly simple and although lots of jumps will catch you out the first time, there’s very little in the way of daunting challenges.
Overall, if you like the look of this game, but haven’t played Trials, go buy Trials. If you’ve played Trials to death and want more of the same, then this is a fine game that’s just a little bit too familiar for comfort.