A easier learning curve, more varied enviroments and the same great gameplay make this game a must

User Rating: 9 | Trials Evolution X360
The original Trails HD holds a special place in my heart, not only because it was such a unique and brilliant game at the time of its release, but also due to the face it was one of the first games I reviewed in a semi-professional capacity for a website.

I gave it an 8.5 back then, and now the sequel has been unleashed on Xbox live Arcade, and it is every bit the game its father was, and in many ways surpasses it. Frustrating, infuriating, maddening, fantastic, awesome, brillant - all words that describe Trials Evolution and absolutely must be used in the same sentence.

The basic idea of Evolution is exactly the same as HD - you control a nameless rider that is tasked with getting to the end of a given level as quickly as possible on his motorcycle. The levels start easy, with the slowest bike, and the difficulty slowly ramps up to the point where great natural skill or a huge time investment and shear pig headedness are required to finish, and that is not counting if you actually want to finish every level with a gold medal.

Finishing with gold requires getting to the end in a specific time, with no faults (checkpoint restarts). This means restarting the level from scratch everytime you make a mistake, and trust me when I say this, you will make mistakes and each of them will be your fault and yours alone.

There in lies the true genuis of the Trails games, when you mess up, it is never the games fault. A slight tap of the stick at the wrong time and you cant make a jump or your bike slides out from under you, forgetting to release the gas at the right time means a awkward lending and your rider breaking his neck, and it is always your fault.

To be fair, the game is tough and levels are at times genuinely devious in thier layout, but they are all able to be completed - its just how much effort your willing to put in to do it. I checked recently, and after eight and a half hours of play, I was only half way through the single player and had 1623 level restarts. I hadnt even gotten to the hard levels yet.

Evolution is no easier than Trials, but the expanded level of content means that the learning curve is much easier and you get used to the controls and how to manuver around levels much better before the difficulty ramps up as you hit the next set of tracks. This negates some of the frustrations of the original, you end up feeling very confident of your ability and get through the first few levels of the next difficulty before getting frustrated again.

The tutorials are much better this time around, popping into the screen and explaining things much better than in the original. This is a game were feel is everything though, and you learn by doing and that is the only way to get through.

Also much better this time around are the levels themselves, if only because they are much more varied. There are even some levels inspired by the great XBLA games of the generation, and blows one of the few criticisms of the original out of the water - its not just warehouses this time. Outdoor environments, train tracks, deserts, you name it, its here and that is a great thing.

So it's frustrating, infuriating, maddening, but you always come out of it with a big smile on your face, especially when you get through a level with no faults that you have been stuck on for hours and that will happen, a lot. It is a testiment to the level designers at Red Lynx, and due to the expanded tools for user created levels, home designers, that Evolution has the ability to illicit these reactions.

There is a multiplayer mode this time around too, and it is fun, but I prefer to stick with single player, its where the meat of the game is and I dont think the mulitplayer adds all that much to the experience.

So you will want to throw your controller through your TV, swear constantly and come out of a session in not the best of moods, but you will have a smile, and that makes Trials Evolution worthy of praise and one of the best games of the year so far.