Redlynx’s Trials HD burst onto the Xbox 360 in 2009, a shiny update of Trials 2 that had been a PC favourite for a long time. The transition to console brought a few things to the table – a more playful attitude, perfect controls, and hundreds of Back buttons becoming suddenly spotlessly clean as impatient thumbs hammered them repeatedly.
For not only is Trials HD tense, brutal and gratifying, it’s also king of the just-one-more-go.
It has a simple premise – ride your scrambling motorbike over a series of obstacles and reach for the gold medal time. Viewed on a 2D plane with 3D elements, your only controls are accelerate, decelerate, and shift your body weight forward and back. There’s physics at the heart of all movement, so a hard push with see your rider throw themselves forward into a steep spin, but most of the game will require micro adjustments to just try and hit the ground at the perfect angle. This is a game that needs memory, both visual and muscle. The only way to tame each course is with repeat play, slowing building a dance of intricate moves that will shave off the vital seconds needed for gaining a medal/beating your friends (whichever is more important to you). The sets of tracks increase in difficulty until there’s very little that stops you throwing the controller through the nearest window in total frustration.
Maybe that’s the Back button’s job after all. The only thing more compelling than smashing that the pad into a million pieces after just clipping the wrong part of the ramp on landing is to reach over and hit Restart. Without any pause or groan, the track resets and offers a new shot a glory. All the while, your Friendslist leaderboards sit there, taunting from afar, showing the fundamental importance of mere milliseconds. Any of the leading runs can be downloaded for CSI-style analysis, helpful visual key indications showing you each squeeze, each tilt towards victory. It all gets shoved into short-term memory to be exploited on the track.
I have no idea how many hours I’ve put into this game. It got to the point that I’d be outside and my wife would catch me eyeing up boxes and pipes, trying to figure out what the perfect racing line would be. The telltale growl of a scrambler engine would approach and I’d stop dead to watch it roll by, fingers twitching in motivational support. I’d have long, drawn-out conversations with friends thousands of miles away who were desperately trying to chip away my times. I’d feel utter indignation as Steve’s girlfriend picked up the pad one day and wiped the floor with both of us. For a time there, Trials was everything and everything was Trials. It’s a testament to the game’s blissful purity, when just three simple commands can become the most compelling game you’ve ever played.
Trials was followed by a sequel, but it lost something in its desire to be bigger. The compact warehouses of Trials HD turned out to be a perfect reflection of the game itself – tight, fast, and impossible to escape. It’s been a while since the obsession with Trials rolled by, but every now and then, it’s the perfect game to put that old twitch back in your fingers.
Great Moments Of The Generation will continue on Monday. Happy weekend!