As the name suggests, Trials Evolution takes the addictive, physics-based biking of Trials HD "to the next level"--typical general-purpose praise for press releases about game sequels, but well deserved here. The next level for Trials Evolution is multiplayer, advancing the competitive asynchronous racing of the first game, in which Xbox Live friends would shave split seconds from their best times to gain ground on leaderboards, to true four-person, simultaneous multiplayer. Trials Evolution contains both online and local multiplayer, and the latter doesn't require split-screen viewing--as in the online multiplayer mode, competitors play on the same screen. If you get left behind in a race and are overtaken by the left side of the screen, you're spawned in again at the next checkpoint.
For the lone player there are advancements, too. The key upgrade is to the track environments, which have gone from up and down slopes in a flattish, left-to-right plane, mostly set in indoor spaces, to wide-open vistas stretching off to the horizon. Tracks still run generally left to right but can now curve into and out of the screen, bending and sloping like a plank roller coaster in one grassy outdoor level. They look grand, too; one early track has you brake and accelerate your way across water, hopping between mossy stepping stones. At the end of the run, it dumps you into a pool--there to crash and float lifelessly along with your dampened bike. So the wince-inducing rag-doll deaths are still securely in place, too. Another track has you racing on a kind of scaffolding high in the air, the ground barely visible below. At the end of this, you're dumped through a trapdoor and into freefall.
Yet another spectacular track sees you out at sea, leaping across shipping containers before they sink. As RedLynx creative director Antti Ilvessuo notes, one happy side effect of the new, more-varied, expansive environments is the ability to remember each one distinctly, in contrast to Trials HD, whose tracks were mostly of a sort ("that one with the planks and barrels," and so on). He also tells us that the development studio has improved the learning curve by changing the way players progress into new tracks. Before, new tracks were unlocked by merely passing tracks of a lower difficulty. Now, you must earn licences by, for example, earning the right number of gold medals. This will keep players who are rushing through the early tracks without really mastering them from suddenly hitting a brick wall of difficulty, says Ilvessuo.
It seems like the kind of obstruction players should deal with. Trials HD, after all, was all about mastery of its sublimely simple physics-based mechanics. Trials Evolution feels like it will be much the same.