Evolution! Like that crazy fish who sauntered out of the brine and started climbing up trees simply because he could, Trials Evolution drags Trials HD out of its dank, rusted warehouse interiors and plonks it in the great outdoors. It's still a game about not falling off a motorbike, but it's now one that feels far more varied and content rich than its predecessor. Not a new species of game, then, but the pleasing result of a genetic code-tweak. The videogame equivalent of a snake with two heads, or a mouse with a human ear on its back.
Trials Evolution is still effectively a 2.5D platformer in which you negotiate your rider through increasingly complicated physics-enabled levels. The right and left triggers offer you fine control over your acceleration and braking, while the left analogue stick shifts your balance towards to front or back of the bike. Together, these inputs form the basis of an incredibly compulsive and deeply addictive style of play - one in which failure is mitigated by hilarious ragdoll physics and rage-dissipating instant resets, and success delivers a gratifying dopamine punch to whatever cortex most enjoys the look and feel of a perfect landing.
As Trials HD was, Trials Evolution is a brain-hooking, deeply arcade-styled salute to the best bits of Excitebike and Motocross Madness. The new approach to track design allows for some creative elbow room. Now every track feels distinct, reactive and less static than the relatively po-faced levels of Trials HD. While the racing still takes place on a resolutely two-dimensional plane, background and foreground scenery won't hesitate to explode and erupt (as in the beach landing track) or dazzle with weird flourishes and activity.
Tracks also twist around a lot more - that is, the two-dimensional line along which you're riding can now curve and wind itself around the scenery. The result is a more visually sumptuous and dynamic feeling game, but also one that can, at times, become the object of your frustrations. While camera angles are now more adventurous than in Trials HD, they can often confuse, mislead and profoundly irritate when you're attempting a clean, fast run through a level.
Survival of the fittest
This newfound creative spectacle also means that there are some fascinatingly oddball tracks to be found. There's one based on Xbox Live Arcade favourite Limbo, for example, and there's also an Inception-style track, in which gravity drunkenly swims from one direction to another while you try to ride your motorbike up the sides of buildings. Yet more tracks introduce steam pipes that launch you high into the sky, bizarre cubes of suspended water that bring you to a mid-air stop and dizzyingly tall ramps, the heights of which make Trials HD appear about as tame as an Asda shuttle bus run.
Multiplayer now lets four riders race simultaneously, employing a Micro Machines-style system whereby dropping off the screen magics the lagging rider into a poof of ethereal smoke, only to reappear at the next checkpoint. The truly unique new feature, however, is Trials Evolution's enhanced level editor. As with Trials HD, it offers up the selfsame suite of development tools used to create the game's original levels, but for the more ambitious designers there exists a broader set of logic tools and triggers.