God, Trials Rising is good. At its heart, a physics-based puzzle game that wears the trappings of extreme sports. It’s the modern equivalent of the old Dirt Bike games on Mac from the 90’s, a formula that has grown more showy and complex over time but retains their “get up and try again” spirit. Indeed, Trials Rising embraces this ethos more than any other title in the series — its tagline? “All you need is Try Again.”
Trials Rising wants you to learn. It wants you to succeed. It knows that the path to mastery is made of failure and frustration. Firm but fair, Trials Rising sets a challenge and expects you to rise to meet it, but what sets it apart from previous titles is that it gives you everything you need to succeed. Previous entries like Trials Fusion were impassive tutors, standing back from the player, arms folded, judging every move but offering no council on basics or best practices. Rising includes a fully fledged Trials University mode in which Australian Trials YouTuber Professor FatShady (real name Brad Hill) shows players the ropes, bit by bit, step by step. Each new lesson is unlocked through the course of play and are immediately applicable in the game at any level. Hit a certain level and you’ll unlock the next wave of lessons. Hill’s lessons are short, smart and uniformly positive. He believes in you and your ability to get this down. Each new skill you master is an encouraging you to go back to levels you’ve already cleared. Chances are, you’ll tackle them very differently and set a new best time while you’re at it. All you need is try again.
Visually, Rising reminds of a fighting game in certain ways. The foreground is for you and the track; it is the part of the map you will be concentrating on the most. The background is reserved for the most distracting whirl of lights and movement the artists can come up with. Getting you to look away, even for a moment, will break the spell and wildly increase the chance of failing out. The true Trials devotee does not see the explosions and robots and car chases going on in the background. There is only the finish line and the track before you.
Speaking of tracks, Rising feaures some of the wildest, most inventive tracks the series has ever seen. From motorcross climbing and diving to full blown Hollywood setpieces, Trials is still finding ways to surprise the player and keep them on their toes. It’s brilliant work, finding the sweet spot between physics puzzle and old fashioned stunt show that is the series’ hallmark again and again.
You can even try your hand at creating your own. Trials Rising comes with a full track editor for budding designers to create their own challenges. Maps can be shared with the wider community, the best ones rising to the top of the pile. It’s a smart addition and one that is surprisingly easy to use on console, a place where level editors traditionally become clunky and unmanageable. There’s no rules for how crazy you can go and some of the top tier community created tracks are truly gruelling. A great way to extend the game’s lifespan.
Rising introduces a slew of upgrades and cosmetics for your character via the much maligned loot box mechanic. While loot boxes can be purchased with real money from the in-game store, they were awarded to me so often in the early game that I don’t know you’d ever need to buy them. Both your rider and your bike can be fully customised — parts, clothes, decals, paint, it’s all in there. All this customisation ties into another new mechanic, that Trials Rising has you race against the ghosts of three other riders on every single track. This adds a competitive aspect. You want to complete the level, but you want to do it faster than these other fools too. You can see their mistakes and where they’ve succeeded, information you can potentially use to your advantage. It’s an interesting move and one that lets you know that you’re not the only one trying again.
Trials Rising is the best in the series. It’s everything you love about Trials with a fresh, more positive perspective. The design has never been more on point, the features never richer. It’s clever, challenging, maddening, addictive and exhilarating. All you need is try again.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Great design; Great game feel; I love Trials University
Lowlights: The easily frustrated are going to bounce off it hard
Developer: RedLynx, Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 4 with a retail code provided by the publisher.