Trials Fusion, like the Trials games before it, is 100% accessible up to a certain point. Using its extremely simple “vocabulary” of only four verbs — lean forward or backward, accelerate or brake — you drive a motorcycle along 2D trails, trying to set the best time with the fewest wipeouts. Along the way, you can bail as many times as you want and you can take as long as you need to reach the end. But eventually, you’ll reach the end and you’ll finish the level and you’ll be free to move along to the next bit. You can try again to improve your performance and maybe beat your friends’ times. That, after all, is a big part of the Trials series. But these games aren’t going to throw any impassible trials or brick walls in your way.
Up to a certain point.
After the jump, reaching the end of the trial.
That screenshot up there is the equivalent of a curb on the side of the road. It’s just a rise in front of the motorcycle partway into the fourth tutorial, well into the game, when Trials Fusion tries to teach you to bunny hop.
It is the absolute end of the game for me.
I have tried well over fifty times to bunny hop up that curb. I cannot reliably get my rear wheel up there. When I do get my rear wheel up there, I can’t maintain my balance on the motorcycle and I wipe out before I hit the checkpoint.
Because I can’t finish the fourth tutorial, I will never play the last few sections of the game. I will never be able to attempt the harder difficulty tracks. I will never unlock the Pit Viper motorcycle. I won’t be able to wear some of the costume bits. I won’t see the end of the game. Nearly half of the DLC I bought — I couldn’t very well not get the season’s pass, could I? — will be forever closed to me.
Why would Red Lynx, the Finnish company who’s been making these Trials games for fifteen years and who was acquired by Ubisoft in 2011, close off so much of their content behind that curb? This has happened to me in every single Trials game. It happens to me in every single Tony Hawk game. I hit a wall in skill-based traversal games and I have to resign myself to the fact that there’s content behind that wall I will never experience, because I’m not good enough. How is that fair? It’s particularly galling when I’ve paid money for the DLC and so much of it is closed to people who haven’t finished the fourth tutorial, to people who haven’t been able to get a motorcycle over that little curb. So much of it is exclusively for people who are really good at the game. How is that fair? It’s enough to make me question whether these games are really for me.
The answer, of couse, is that they are for me. Anyone can play a Trials game, and there’s plenty of content even if you never get past that curb. But you can’t attempt that curb fifty times, much less play through the content that gets you to that curb, without developing a modicum of skill with the game’s four simple verbs. Whether I knew it or not, I had gotten somewhat good at Trials Fusion. So when I went back into the game to get a screenshot of that curb to accompany this review/screed, I managed to get past it after only four attempts.
So what happened that I was stuck so long previously? Who knows. You get in ruts in some games that you can’t get out of until you’ve stepped away for a while. You come back with fresh eyes, with new timing, with another approach. Corks pop loose. Brick walls crack. The seemingly impossible was only ever seemingly impossible. I’ve since played a few tracks at the hardest difficultly level and they’re, well, frustrating. I’m good enough to know what I need to do, but not good enough to reliably do it. That’s just part of getting better at skill-based games.
Trials Fusion, with its flashy futuristic aesthetic, is the latest Trials game, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best. Because this is a such a basic game and the graphical flash only matters so much, the earlier Trials Evolution holds up with its rougher-hewn industrial aesthetic. Still, there’s something uniquely thriling about all the crazy futuristic touches in Trials Fusion, with sliding platforms and hoverships and weird purple alloys and force fields. I say that I couldn’t care less about all the customizable constume bits, but I still find myself playing dress up with my motorcyclist. I mean, I paid to unlock those costume bits, so I might as well use them.
Trials Fusion is available on pretty much any platform you’d like to play it, but the bottom line for which Trials you play and where you play it is your friends list. This isn’t a game about just unlocking tracks and reaching the end. It’s about doing better on any given track, and this is driven by how it constantly taunts you with your friends’ performance with in-game ghosts and high-score lists. Trials Fusion also has an element of exploration by offering you three bonus objectives for each track, such as never letting off the accelerator, or doing a certain number of flips from a jump, or finding a secret area that can only be reached by wiping out.
A comprehensive track editor lets you make tracks, but who wants to make tracks when there are already so many of them made? Trials Fusion came out last April, and since then it’s accumulated over 20,000 user-made tracks, all online so you can easily jump into them. I’m sure 19,900 of them are awful, but a ratings system makes it easy enough to find the hundred that aren’t awful.
The local multiplayer isn’t very well fleshed out. Whoever’s really good at the game is going to win. Barring that, whoever takes the stable ATV is going to win. So everyone takes the ATV and now you’re playing a game about slowly puttering along a track like a geriatric biker gang. I wish there were more tracks or modes or scoring systems, but even bare-bones, it’s an enjoyable enough diversion for up to four people on the same couch.
There’s also a new stunt system that ties into the scoring. Frankly, it’s a bit of extra vocabulary that I could do without. Hold the right stick to perform stunts and build up a multiplier. But it’s common enough to traversal games and mostly optional. It does add a bit of “whee!” to the already “whee!”-inducing crazy high jumps. I guess when I get better, I’ll be more comfortable with stunts. Until then, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy now that I’m past that curb, playing the content exclusive to those of us who are really good at Trials Fusion. I guess that’s one advantage of brick walls; they keep you from gobbling up all the content in one sitting.
Rock-solid motocross physics and reality-bending course designs come together for an over-the-top experience that no other game can provide. The finish line is the ultimate goal, but the challenge is everything before it.