"Welcome to the future!" The song that welcomes you into Trials Fusion is so catchy, so sincere, and so cheesy that it wonderfully sets the tone for the insanity that's about to unfold. Like its predecessors, Fusion relishes in the absurd. The writhing body of your fallen rider, the warning of a furry of squirrels from the announcer, and the slapstick deaths that meet you at the finish line all converge to keep your spirits high as you fight through the treacherous, postapocalyptic landscapes. Trials Fusion is another great entry in the series that embraces its comedic and devious nature to create a mesmerizing motorcycle adventure in the land of chaos.
The spirit of Trials is unchanged in this newest iteration. Obstacle courses stretch before you, confining you to a 2D line in which you have little choice but to meet your fate straight on, dead ahead. Your focus is on staying upright. Twist the throttle, lean forward and back, and try not to land wrong after a three-story drop. It's readily apparent that the uncomplicated controls hide the complexity boiling just under the surface. Although the physics aren't realistic, they are consistent. Any bump can send you reeling if you hit it at the wrong angle, so be wary, and don't gun the accelerator on an uphill climb unless you want to end up flat on your back.
Sound intimidating? Don't worry. Fusion eases you into its challenges through tutorials that may make veteran riders yawn but ensure things aren't so scary for novices. Once you come to grips with the handling, perfection is within your grasp in the early going. Beginner, easy, and medium courses test your knowledge of the basic maneuvers through a series of fantastic tracks that spit in the face of those who swear by natural laws. Ramps assemble themselves as you speed toward them in a metallic space station, Cretaceous fog swirls in a swamp, and nuclear silos hint at what has become of this ravaged world.
For half of Fusion, you're on a whirlwind tour of an arctic wilderness, arid deserts, and other locales that encompass your adventure. Speed is your goal. Can you shave seconds off your time? Cross the finish line without crashing? With a little practice, the answer is yes, so you spend hours testing yourself against the best the leaderboards have to offer. Or, at least whatever your friends are up to. Fusion has a single-screen, local multiplayer mode that's a fun diversion for up to four, but the real competition lies in chasing your friends' best times. Markers showing how well they performed dot tracks, so you always know exactly how you stack up, and know that it's only a matter of time before they're looking up at you.
Ramps assemble themselves as you speed toward them, Cretaceous fog swirls in a swamp, and nuclear silos hint at what has become of this ravaged world.
Things shift considerably once you enter the hard tracks. Say goodbye to the breezy, speedy fun that defined your early adventures. Those dreams of chasing down friends or finishing without a single crash have dissipated, and mere survival is your only goal. Fusion lays out checkpoints in such a liberal manner that there are almost too many in the initial courses. But you'll need every one once you enter the later tracks. It's here that you have to urge your bike across a bottomless drop without any momentum to get you moving. Or climb a sheer rock face with a nasty bump waiting for you as you near the top. Every section is so challenging that your resolve is constantly tested. Immediate restarts let you try again and again without any break, but at some point, you may find that you've met your match.
For me, it was toward the end of the hard tracks that I hit both the literal and figurative wall. But instead of putting down the controller for good, I went back to those early courses that I thought I had nailed. It turns out that the hard work it took to get me through the bulk of the adventure improved my abilities, so I shattered my previous times upon revisiting them. There's always a way to land a jump more smoothly, or keep your momentum going even while climbing uphill, and it's immensely satisfying to see just how far you've come from those early hours. Fusion has bikes and clothing to unlock, but it's not the extrinsic rewards that are so compelling. Rather, it's the intrinsic feeling of achieving something real, of overcoming what seemed impossible, and seeing how skilled you've become at such a difficult game.
Fusion isn't just about navigating tricky racetracks. Tricks have now been integrated in the action so you can show a little flair while you're flying off ramps. Just tilt the right stick to imitate superman or a proud hero, and try to hold that pose as long as possible until your wheels hit the road. Pulling off tricks during normal runs spices up the action, though you don't receive any bonuses for being daring. However, there are courses specifically designed for tricks that let you show off your creative side. Ramps upon ramps with speed in mind let you go crazy in midair, and such a goofy diversion offers a great respite from the hard-nosed racing. So blow off some steam before you once again try to best one of those conniving hard courses.
Part of the reason Fusion is so successful is that it gives you ample ways to have fun even when you're struggling to progress. Every track has three challenges to take part in that change things drastically from the standard racing fare. Some of these are tests of skill, such as maneuvering through a track without laying off the accelerator. Other times, you need to put your explorer's hat on. Find every bunch of flowers or the three hidden buttons, and keep your eyes peeled; you'd be surprised how well things are hidden in the linear courses. My favorite challenges were those that I never saw coming. Squaring off against a penguin in a game of tennis? Flipping the screen upside down? Riding a rocket? Fusion is ridiculous, and the challenges bring even more goofiness into the fold.
The one downside of Fusion lies in its creation tools. Though they are incredibly powerful, they require a lot of effort before you can even begin to craft an interesting track. There are no in-game tutorials to guide you through this tricky process; rather, you're pointed toward a YouTube page, and there's no direct link taking you there. As of this writing, those videos were still not uploaded. Sadly, the tools aren't intuitive, so I struggled to make anything. You're given a map of the entire Fusion world and must lay down a racing line, but gauging the size of obstacles such as rocks and canyons is not easy. Once you have the basic layout, you must fiddle with tons of different options. Laying down roads seems easy enough, right? Even that took a lot more finagling that I expected. And after I was done, my rider would occasionally fall through the environment or clip into rocks. I could see the potential, but without a proper tutorial, I couldn't wrap my head around the obtuse tools.
Of course, if you're not into creating tracks, you won't find any major problems in Trials Fusion, and it's easy to find tracks from other users. This is another expertly designed entry in the enthralling series. Though the core action remains largely unchanged, it's as exciting as it has ever been, thanks in part to the gorgeous visual design that brings each location to life. By injecting so much levity in a game with such a tough exterior, RedLynx has been able to keep the mood light even when you're cursing them for punishing course design. Trials Fusion is a great game that not only tests your skill and patience, but keeps you laughing at the ridiculous scenarios.