The Trials series from developer RedLynx has been around in one form or another since 2000, though many players will have had their first exposure to the game with 2008’s Trials HD on the Xbox 360. The premise of the game hasn’t changed much in the eleven year’s since that game and 2019’s Trials Rising. You’re still on a motorcycle and you still need to use delicate throttle control and a working knowledge of basic physics to get from point A to point B.
There have been several main Trials releases since 2008, from the fairly stock Trials Evolution to the wholly weird Trials of the Blood Dragon. Trials Rising sits somewhere in between — a proponent of physical comedy (in its own way) while still being a seriously technical challenge. It’s masses of fun on a bun but there are a few bits of this one that don’t sit quite right with us.
Just enough to construct a frame
There’s a story of sorts to be had in Rising. Kinda. You’re there to ride motorcycles in a range of settings, with several sponsors turning up to ask for increasingly difficult tasks to be completed. With a little more detail it would be the cliched old story. You know, rookie rider makes good, eventually goes on to dominate the globe at [insert sportsing skill here]. That story.
Except that’s not what’s happening here. You’re here to ride. Against opponents, sure, and for monetary reward, but there’s nothing in it beyond the initial conceit. There are no cut-scenes, you’re not really aiming for a podium finish (except when you are), and anything narrative-based is low on your list of priorities.
Of course, that neglects the storytelling that the game provides through its visuals. When you’re hopping from ramp to cargo container on a disintegrating train in Eastern Europe, blasting through an American movie set at high speed, or hopping between balloons for reasons we’re still not sure about, there’s a miniature story of sorts taking place there. But, like the rest of it, players will have to flesh out the details for themselves. If they can concentrate on those, that is.
Trials Rising takes place on a global map, putting the training wheels on in the States before venturing out to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia once players are a little more familiar with how their bikes handle. Each track is themed, more or less, putting you in Scotland, Pripyat, Hong Kong, Cairo, and a whole lot more besides. The background (which is a busy place to inspect) suits the real-world setting — though suitably exaggerated for Rising‘s physical comedy.
But you’re not going to be watching that stuff. Not after the initial very easy stages that are more of an opportunity to just open the throttle and drive. From fairly simple tracks, requiring little more than landing on at least one wheel, players are sent to far more technical climes. Slowly, over time, but difficulty increases steadily. One second you’re hopping from point to point, learning how your body position and throttle work together. The next you’re making sure you’re pre-loading your shocks with enough weight to catapult you over a seemingly-impossible gap. The ability uptick is almost insidious.
Even the most simple tracks prove to be difficult to master, though. You might clear it with no problem but to really fly through to the end calls on skills that you may not begin the game with. Not to worry, there are options. Practise might be involved. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun.
There is a tutorial area that players can spend some time in, covering everything from the very basics (don’t fall over) to far more advanced skills (ramp transfers). It only really becomes a proper challenge once you’re learning to leap across increasingly larger gaps — a required skill for late-stage play. Still, you’ve got a ways to go before you’re forced to git gud, and at that point you’ll be invested in being the best motorbike-jumper-arounder around.
There are also Skill Games, often whacky contests that involve explosions, wipeouts, bouncing off explosions, playing basketball, explosions, and trying not to burn to death. These are gated by level or objective progression, so you’ll have to clear some events or rack up enough wins to unlock all of these weird options.
Most of the many, many available tracks are also locked away until you’re able to clear a specific event or you’ve levelled up — the only real use of Rising‘s XP system, actually. And even once you’ve completely cleared a level, there’s always the chance that a Sponsor will turn up asking you to do the same thing. Only this time you’re not allows to crash and, oh yes, please do twenty front-flips while you’re at it.
Just lying around
There is a fairly substantial section of the game that feels a little out of place. There are loot-boxes to be had, a section of gaming we thought had fallen out of favour, and then there are also microtransactions. Usually we’d be filled with outrage (of a sort) but here, we just can’t get that mad. There are a few reasons for this.
For one, the microtransactions and loot-boxes can be bought with real money (as can an in-game currency revolving around acorns) but you really, really don’t have to. The only rewards from the loot-boxes are cosmetic in nature — either in terms of bike parts, stickers, or character customisation. And the microtransactions are all cosmetic as well. Nothing you can spend real money on will influence the game in any way besides visually.
And you don’t actually have to spend the money. Every time players level up they may unlock new stages but for every XP milestone, you also get a loot-box. This is a half-hearted effort at setting up some sort of feedback loop (aimed at making you spend) but we opened more than 100 boxes during this review and didn’t pay a cent for them. Like we said: totally optional. And even if you want to buy items, you can use in-game currency instead of cash to purchase that helmet you’re after. There’s a lot of it about, so your credit card is probably safe.
If the customisation options (decent), loot-boxes (non-essential), and microtransactions (optional) feel a little out of place, the track editor and the online — also optional bits — don’t. For those looking for even more variety and challenge, expect a whole lot of extra value to come from these sections.
Trials Rising: Verdict
If you’re a fan of any of the Trials games released since 2008 (fans of the Blood Dragon instalment may not count), you’ll be pleased to note that Rising is the best game since… possibly ever. In terms of track variety, skill required and plain old fun, Trials Rising is a fantastic play. No matter the skill level, there’s always something to do, a challenge to overcome, a new skill to polish. Eventually you’re rocking back and forth on that bipedal convenance like a metronome, leaping tall obstacles in a single bound.
Trials Rising takes players from an easy-peasy, Michael Bay-inspired explosion-fest of vehicular madness and eases them into more challenging scenarios. You’re going to want to keep hitting that same track again for the thirtieth time, because you just need to shave off another second from your best time. Rising, like others in the series, is best played in short bursts but it’ll keep you going for extended periods as well. We’re not overly thrilled by the micro-transactions and loot-boxes but these really are optional, as long as you can ignore the notifications. Forget all that, though. It’s all about you, the bike, and the track. We suspect the three of you will be very happy together.