Trials Rising is a sequel to a franchise that has a lot of things figured out. After multiple entries that have helped refine gameplay that was already good to start off with, Rising doesn't veer too far off the track. It still has a wonderfully diverse set of destinations to visit, each with their own over-the-top track design and goofy finish line antics. Each course still encourages you to repeat it nearly obsessively in the pursuit of that next perfect run to show off online. Trials Rising has the same engrossing gameplay the series is known for, but it offers no new surprises.
Trials Rising is no more complicated to pick up and play than any of its predecessors. You only need to worry about your throttle, brakes, and the pitch of your motorcycle as you race across Rising's many 2D tracks, set in anything from a Russian missile silo to a tomato festival in the Italian countryside. This simplicity in control is complemented by a deep learning curve, challenging you to understand how Trials' physics work. They're not realistic by any stretch, but they do adhere to a set of rules that you'll need to become comfortable with to beat its most challenging courses.
The balance of your motorcycle is the first hurdle. Although you're only given access to three during the lengthy campaign (more can be unlocked using either in-game currency or real money), each of them handles in very different ways. One gives you more thrust from a stationary start but limits your rotational speed in the air, while another has a frame so light that you need to be cautious of applying too much throttle on a straight and having your front wheel fly into the air above you. Trials Rising gives you suggestions on which motorcycles are best for certain courses, and it is fun moving from one extreme to the other in between events and learning to adjust accordingly.
Controlling your motorcycle consists of shifting weight either backwards or forwards, determining whether you're going to gently roll over a hill at the end of a steep climb or see your wheels bounce away from the platform before you hurtle towards failure. It doesn't take long for basic maneuvers to start feeling like second nature. Small actions--such as leaning back to embrace a landing or shifting forward to go down a steep ascent--start blending together to create a tangible flow to Rising's earlier courses.
These levels are less challenging and more instructive, giving you ample room to experiment with Rising's mechanics while also rewarding you well for less-than-perfect finishes. Later courses start increasing the difficulty significantly. Tracks require careful consideration over throttle control and feature more gruelling skills tests, which punish even the slightest miscalculation. You have a large number of events between these two extremes, though, which makes each new challenge feel like an appropriate test of your skills rather than a jarring spike in difficulty.
However, even the most carefully executed runs through a course can become undone by obstacles that rely on seemingly random outcomes instead of skill to overcome. Catapults, exploding platforms, and more add an unpredictable nature to later courses that often feels more frustrating than exciting. A small variation on where you stop on a catapult before it fires you into the air can lead to wildly different outcomes, for example. It's one thing to fail a course and identify where you can get better, but it's another to be having the best run yet only to fail right at the end and not understand how you could've avoided it.
Rising has an incredibly useful training school that has new courses unlock as you progress through the campaign. These events teach you new techniques that give you a deeper understanding of how to control your motorcycle while also providing challenging proving grounds to test how much you've learned. These provide some of the toughest challenges Rising has to offer, but without the stress of needing to finish first in a race or worry about how many times you fail.
New to Rising are contract objectives from in-game "sponsors," which offer an additional level of challenge and extra rewards. With sponsors, courses you've already participated in can be replayed with some additional objectives. Anything from pulling off flips to limiting the number of faults you can have is on the table, tasking you with reprogramming your muscle memory and coming up with new routines on familiar tracks. Some of the most difficult sponsors will require you to finish first across several events; make a mistake along the way and you might as well start over. These are the least interesting of the bunch by virtue of feeling too unforgiving (even by Trials standards), but they're thankfully not required to unlock new events.
Rising's more stunt-focused events are less rewarding. If the rest of Trials Rising only has one toe dipped into a pool of absurdity, these events have the whole leg. You can use the ragdoll physics of your rider to steer balls into a basketball hoop or aim for exploding barrels to try and bounce yourself along a never-ending track. None of these events really test your understanding of Trials' main mechanics and are instead just positioned as quick palate cleansers for in-between events. None of them are precise in the way that other events are, making them less engaging to learn and a slog to play.
All events in Rising contribute to an overall player level, which you increase in order to access to events and unlock gear to customize both your rider and their motorcycles. Customization items are obfuscated in crates that randomly spit out three items at a time, with duplicates becoming a frequent occurrence just a few hours in. Frustratingly, these duplicates aren't immediately turned into in-game currency to save you the effort, instead forcing you to dive into multiple menus for each category of gear and sell them individually. The gear itself isn't varied or visually appealing enough to justify this headache, and it was easy to forget about it entirely after just a few minutes of wrestling with it.
Trials Rising also features a suite of multiplayer options, ranging from public and private multiplayer matches to more intimate--and hilarious--local multiplayer modes. Online multiplayer is straightforward; you join lobbies with up to seven other racers and compete across three courses, with points awarded based on your finishes. Trials plays better in a local multiplayer setting, and Rising's Party mode lets you organize up to eight courses into a single playlist with custom rules that up to four players can compete in. A new tandem motorcycle makes things even sillier. Two players control a single motorcycle through a course, making smooth course runs nigh impossible as you struggle to maintain control. It's a fun distraction that can be played for brief laughs.
Trials Rising isn't a reinvention of the franchise--it's an invitation to lose more hours to new exhilarating, technical, and ridiculous Trials courses.
Rising still lets you create brand-new courses from scratch, and race on any that other players have uploaded, but its tools for construction are still ridiculously complicated to grasp. The course editor has no tutorials on how to get up and running and no templates which you can build upon to make editing slightly quicker. The confusing menus, overwhelming taskbar at the bottom of the screen, and unintuitive movement within the editor make trying to create even just a simple track a needlessly difficult chore.
Trials Rising maintains the engrossing, challenging, and occasionally slapstick gameplay from past entries in the series, building upon it in small ways with a smartly implemented school to teach fundamental skills and modifiers to make events worth revisiting. But it also doesn't fix issues from the past, either. Its track editor remains uninviting to learn, and the more outrageous stunt events and course obstacles frustratingly lean more into random luck than calculated skill. Trials Rising isn't a reinvention of the franchise--it's an invitation to lose more hours to new exhilarating, technical, and ridiculous Trials courses.