Sunday, May 11, 2008

Trials 2 Second Edition Review

Trials 2 Second Edition, developed and published by RedLynx.
The Good: Believable physics, simple controls, numerous challenging puzzles that can be completed in any order, frequent checkpoints, nice graphics, online high scores
The Not So Good: No map editor, difficulty increases very quickly, can’t customize controls
What say you? A fun but exceedingly tough physics-based motorcycle racing puzzle game: 6/8

Part of the reason why extreme sports are popular is because there is a distinct chance of someone getting seriously injured. Oh, and they are skilled athletes. One of the more insane rungs on the extreme sports ladder is motorcycle stunts, where riders go far too fast and jump far too high. If there was only a computer game that captured the raw fury of people breaking a majority of their bones! Lucky for us we have the generically-named Trials 2 Second Edition, a motorcycle stunt puzzle game derived from a flash game. Like Trackmania, Trials 2 Second Edition involves doing slightly over-the-top stunts over courses and trying to reach the finish in the shortest amount of time. Will Trials 2 Second Edition earn perfect “10”s, or crash head-first into a pile of dirt?

Trials 2 Second Edition features some very nice 3-D graphics. Though the environments are bland and repetitive (with the same industrial theme throughout), the level of detail and special effects present in the game are outstanding. The bike and rider are well-animated and the in-game objects are realistic-looking. There are also some pleasing shadow and lighting effects, from the motorcycle headlights to fire. Turning the graphics to “ultra-high” brings even more detail to the table and the game runs smoothly. The sound is a bit more understated, with crowd reactions and the sound of pain. The bike engine effects are done well and the music, while generic, is somewhat catchy. Overall, Trials 2 Second Edition has a very slick presentation that certainly does not look like a budget game.

Trials 2 Second Edition features numerous puzzles to test your gaming mettle. The normal game mode (coincidentally called “normal”) requires you to reach the goal in the shortest amount of time. Dynamic mode adds moving objects, flip mode wants you to flip the bike, and wheelie mode wants you to pull some sick wheelies. There is a good amount of variety here that should keep you busy for a while, especially since you can continually improve your time and execute new ways of attacking each obstacle. The game starts with the first tutorial level selected each time you play instead of where you left off, which is very strange. You can, however, choose any level at any time, so there isn’t any artificial restriction on progression through the game. The tutorial levels teach you various key presses to get past specific obstacles, although a lot of the combinations are very precise. Trials 2 Second Edition could use more introductory levels, as I found the easy levels to still be quite difficult. Something that would remedy this situation is a level editor, and the lack of a level editor is a crime against humanity. Since all of the puzzles in Trials 2 Second Edition take place along a linear path, it would seem that allowing users to create their own content would be pretty straightforward, but for some reason Trials 2 Second Edition does not support adding levels to the game. This is very odd on a platform that typically supports user-made content.

Trials 2 Second Edition features full stats on your progress through the game. Each session records your overall time, faults (resarts), flips, wheelie distance, air time, bones broken, and experience gained. The game will also record your time and automatically upload it to the central server for comparison against the world. This progress happens almost instantaneously and it’s great to see how you stack up against other players. As an extension of this method of online competition, Trials 2 Second Edition also includes a chat room, teams you can join, and an achievement system to give you more incentive to keep playing other than simply getting a good score.

Controlling your bike is straightforward: accelerate, brake, and lean forward or back. You can’t customize the controls at all, but Trials 2 Second Edition will automatically detect any gamepads you might have plugged in. Trials 2 Second Edition doesn’t really lend itself to keyboard controls since accelerating too quickly will result in many tumbles (especially on inclined surfaces that populate the maps). This increases the difficulty since you have to be very, very careful in driving your bike. It does take a while to get used to how the bike handles, since it always wants to pull a wheelie (since all power is directed towards the back wheel). It also took me a while to realize lean was not a toggle (you can pick varying degrees of leaning); this might be the cause for a lot of my failures (in the game, not in life).

The physics engine at the core of Trials 2 Second Edition delivers some plausible results, which makes controlling the bike more predictable. In your journeys, you will encounter objects such as ladders, planks, drums, logs, and ramps standing in your way. How you attack each obstacle in both strategy (which to jump over) and execution (how much lean or gas to use) determines how successful you will be. Luckily, Trials 2 Second Edition features pretty frequent checkpoints where you can start from if (when) you crash. Some of the checkpoints are located in questionable areas where it is difficult (if not impossible) to start from, but these are in the minority. I must say that I really stink at this game. I’m not sure if it’s the hardcore level design, the touchy controls, or just my poor playing skills, but I found Trials 2 Second Edition to be one of the most challenging games of any kind I have encountered. While this would be fine for higher-level puzzles, the game starts getting hard right out of the box. This will probably frustrate a lot of new players (as it did to me) and you really need to practice a lot to get somewhat decent. Trials 2 Second Edition would certainly benefit from more puzzles for beginners to ease them into the game.

Trials 2 Second Edition is a polished, well-executed game that could benefit from a couple of enhanced or additional features. The controls are simple, the puzzles are numerous, the graphics are generally spectacular, and the online scorekeeping features are robust. Trials 2 Second Edition plays like a more deliberate version of Trackmania: a much slower pace but a higher level of precision. This makes Trials 2 Second Edition pretty darn difficult, and I think the learning curve new players will have to encounter will turn a lot of them away. Practice makes perfect, but Trials 2 Second Edition should come with more introductory levels to make the game appeal to a larger audience. Add a track editor and I’d bump the score up a point. Add more levels easier than “easy” and I’d bump it up another. So, really, Trials 2 Second Edition is two features away from being, well, perfect. The game is best in small doses, and if you like the genre then you will have a good time improving your times and coming up with new strategies.