I secretly have a small fetish for trial based flash games that have plagued the internet since the dawn of browser based games. I was rather surprised by the lack of a trials game on XBLA, even to the level of which I was contemplating jumping on the Indie bandwagon and create one myself. Unfortunately that gap in the market has now closed... closed tight! Trials HD does its job flawlessly and is everything a budding biker could have wanted for the genre.
The principle for anyone new to the genre is simple enough. Whilst riding a bike on a flat 2D plane, you must navigate up and down obstacles, balancing your biker to avoid falling off (or eating gravel). That's it. You can play and thoroughly enjoy the entire game with 2 buttons and an analogue stick. Thankfully that is the beauty of the genre, as with most great arcade games, anyone can get stuck in and do well, but the determined and skilled can master the game on an entirely higher level.
The game is split up into over 50 courses, ranging from easy to extreme. The tracks start off slow and simple, proving glee as you fly through them without a fall to be seen. Then before long you hit the more challenging and creative tracks that have you flying over canyons, through flames, over spikes and avoiding pendulums. The learning curve (or wall as it can be described) is a thing of beauty for anyone who enjoys a challenge.
When you finally progress far enough you will be rewarded with 4 extreme tracks, which as the title suggests is only for the extreme. Great men have fallen attempting to survive the torture contained within (one day Wriggy, fellow Console Monster). The ones that survive are rewarded with an achievement of their brave fight, and the sense of accomplishment that equals that of solving world hunger.
If all this sound of challenge and frustration scares you too much, then you can always take a break and enjoy the skill based mini-games on offer. The fair number of mini-games have you ski-jumping, rolling inside of massive balls of iron, playing pinball, performing back-flips and even breaking every bone in your body. The beauty to these modes, as with all of the game's offerings, is the inclusion of your friends list on the tracks themselves. Performing that distant ski-jump is that much more rewarding when your friends name is placed on the floor itself, instead of simply a score on a distant leaderboard. Landing past that name, racing ahead of it or flipping higher than the names on your familiar friend list is rewarding in its own right.
The downfalls of the game are few and far between, as for an arcade title the game ticks more boxes than it misses. The price is great, graphically superb, good audio, addictive gameplay and increasingly challenging. My only niggle would be the inclusion of an achievement, which to this day looks simply unobtainable by anyone but the gods (so far two people have it, and god only knows how). The achievement requires you to navigate a marathon of tracks, without a single fault. Something which not even the QA team developing the game is said to have achieved.
If this style of genre is to your tastes, or even if you just like a bit of a challenge, Trials HD is sure to please. Easily one of the many highlights of the years fantastic arcade releases, this is certainly a game that will continue to see high favouritism throughout friends lists for time to come.