Reviews// Urban Trial Freestyle

Posted 19 Feb 2013 18:00 by
Well, PS3 owners... good news. This is basically Trials. Really, that there is the heart of this review. Urban Trial Freestyle is just Trials. In fact, the way it's so unapologetically a recreation of Trials is quite impressive. And there's part of me that wants to give Tate Interactive a right kicking for that.

But Trials HD and Evolution (which I reviewed) aren't on the PSN, are they? Which really makes it hard to complain, because Trials is very, very good, and now a whole load of PS3/Vita/3DS owners are going to get to have that experience.

So I am, unavoidably, going to talk about Urban Trial Freestyle with reference to Trials loads. As I say, which I reviewed Trials Evolution here, so compare and contrast to your heart's content.

The basic premise and mechanics are almost identical to those of Trials. It's a physics based platformer in which you sidescroll on rails across the screen, controlling your speed, braking, balance and nothing else. As you cross ever-more improbable environments littered with obstacles you'll need to apply some real finesse and fine control to your bike in order to navigate each stage and not smash face-first into the ground repeatedly.

Each level gives you a star rating from one to five. New levels are unlocked by attaining enough stars. Some levels are speed challenges, in which you're racing against another player's ghost, downloaded automatically through the network. Others are stunt challenges, in which you need to perform flips, hit certain heights or distances when jumping, or land your bike as close to a designated spot as possible. That's one way you get a bit of a difference from Trials, I suppose the stunt challenges. For the most part, however, these are just ways of making you get from A to B in a slightly different manner than you would have done naturally. It's a looooong way from transformative.

There's one other mechanic that makes the game differ from Trials police and pedestrians will periodically try to interfere with your ride by shoving obstacles in your path, so the levels are a wee bit more dynamic than they typically are in Trials.

Sooo... how does it stack up?

Well, the mechanics work well and, as you'd expect, it makes for a very gripping, technical game. Shocking, right? 'Game is like Trials, is fun'.

And it looks just fine. The levels are generally more urban than many of those in Trials, particularly in Evolution. There's also more activitiy on screen, with figures in the background going about their day, watching or attempting to interfere. It brings a little more life to proceedings.

The game is closer to the first Trials game than the second with short, compact levels. It doesn't have the sprawl of Evolution and the emphasis often falls on working hard at tricky obstacles to get them right, rather than speed and flow.

There's not as much content here as in Evolution, either. It's part of the package that you'll repeat levels to become familiar with them and improve your score repeating stages is a built-in mechanism. It's a little annoying, though, that stages are re-used in a different format, meaning that you do both speed runs and stunt challenges across the same terrain. Given that you're already going to do the same stage more than once, you end up with a lot of repetition.

On the PS Vita front, the game works well as a slightly scaled-back version of the PS3 release. Levels are a little shorter (or just out and out different) and the NPCs and other distractions don't make it in, but otherwise the meat and potatoes are all there.

Graphically, it's well-polished. Unfortunately, the lack of screen real estate can be a problem. My initial feeling was that the bike/rider was taking up more of the screen than in the console version, but a comparison showed that actually they're about on a par. It's simply that the breathing room on the big screen makes playing a game that can be very fast more comfortable. There are moments on the Vita when elements of the terrain seem to come out of nowhere, and the smaller screen combined with the smaller analogue stick make everything feel that much more fiddly.

Still, these aren't huge quibbles and overall the PSV version stands up well.

All in all, Urban Trial Freestyle has a lot to recommend it. It's a lot of fun in all the same ways Trials is. If you've got an Xbox, you're probably better off with the original, but if you're a PS3 or PSV owner and enjoy tight platforming, Urban Trial Freestyle will serve you well.

Pros:
+ Excellent, well-balanced mechanics
+ Challenging, technical gameplay
+ Looks great

Cons:
- Doesn't add a whole lot to Trials
- Levels can get repetitive

SPOnG Score: 8/10 (PS3); 8/10 (PSV)

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