Both the original Urban Trial Freestyle and last year's stunt bike sequel managed to stick their landings on 3DS, though it's fair to say that neither game really attempted any outrageous stunts. At first glance, developer Teyon seems to have declined the opportunity to try something a little more gnarly with Switch exclusive Urban Trial Playground. To all intents and purposes, this is yet another 2.5D stunt racer in thrall to the Trials series.
Before long, however, you'll come to appreciate that Urban Trial Playground represents an extremely focused and surprisingly nuanced progression for the series. Once again your mission is to ride from left to right on a dirt bike, avoiding crashes, gaining air, and pulling off stunts. Key to this is a familiar body-balance system where pushing right on the left analog stick will lean your biker forward, while pushing left achieves the opposite. On the floor this will let you adjust where your weight is positioned on your bike, while in the air it will enable you to pull off flips.
So far so run of the mill. There are a couple of small but meaningful additions that subtly enrich the stunt-biking formula, however. It's relatively easy to pull off a sustained wheelie in Urban Trial Playground, though it remains just precarious enough to be enjoyable. This feeds into the fact that riding on your back wheel is the fastest way to travel along flat sections. It isn't scared to stretch its levels out a little more to suit, and the result is a stunt-fuelled game that can still feel blisteringly fast.
Another new inclusion is the provision of independent front and rear brakes, which are thoughtfully assigned to ZL and ZR. The rear brake is generally more practical, but skillful use of the front brake enables you to force a stoppie (a front wheelie) and speed up the pace of a front flip. The final control addition we should mention is a smart jump-extension system that requires both skill and timing to perform. Holding down on the analog stick to duck on the saddle, then up just before the edge of a ramp will give your rider extra air.
While you're not forced to master that last move, it's a big help when it comes to reaching some of the mid-air chip collectibles, or to access some of the subtle level splits that can take you onto rooftops and awnings. Indeed, Urban Trial Playground as a whole is a remarkably welcoming game to play. It's both startlingly easy and fun to blast through a whole bunch of levels in a row, simply enjoying the speed and fluidity of the racing. But there's also plenty of incentive to return and absolutely rinse a stage.
Besides the aforementioned chip collectibles that are hidden throughout each level, you also get given a rating out of five stars depending on how many points you accumulate. In addition there are multiple challenges to tick off, such as achieving a certain number of front flips, landing a set jump distance, or simply completing a clean run. You might want to revisit earlier levels as you unlock new and more capable bikes, or when you get enough credit to enhance your existing ride with better components. It's a sign of the game's welcoming nature that when you do get a new bike, the components you've already bought can be transferred over.
All of this, and the game looks crisp and colourful - if a little lacking in personality. It moves like a dream too, especially in docked mode. The frame rate seems less fluid in handheld mode, and it's a game that's evidently been optimised for a large 1080p display. This is comfortably the most handsome handheld Urban Trial game yet, regardless. There's no online multiplayer, unfortunately, but local multiplayer fans are well catered for with a range of two-player split-screen modes. The option to chase down your opponent after a brief head start, in particular, really drives home the game's intoxicating balance of speed and precision.
Urban Trial Playground may not reinvent the stunt bike wheel, but it does provide an extremely fluid and inviting arcade experience for Switch owners. Tactile controls and pacy, highly replayable levels make this an accomplished cut-price racer package.