Very few games as close to marrying sheer frustration and abject joy as Trials. From its earliest days as a browser game in 2000 to its breakout success on XBLA, RedLynx’s 2.5D racer has always been a tough cookie to crack thanks to its physics-driven stunts and high difficulty curve, and as such, it’s boxed itself into a niche-shaped corner. But with the release of Trials Rising, the series has an entry that’s both incredibly accessible for brand new players while offering an experience filled with enough creative challenge to keep long-serving pros very happy.
This is also a debut for the franchise on a Nintendo console, bringing its mixture of platforming, stunts and high-speed racing to handhelds for the very first time. And it's the full package, too. Screenshots and video that circulated prior to the release of the game suggested this Switch port was going to be another WWE 2K18 or Ark: Survival Evolved. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. You’re getting every mode and track available on every other platform (including the fabled Track Editor) running at a relatively stable 30fps – not quite the 60fps it runs at on PS4, Xbox One and PC, but still.
Occasionally, that frame rate does dip a little, mostly in handheld mode, but it usually holds fast. That means you’re still able to reset your rider with a press of ‘B’ every time you mistime a landing or fling your rider over the handlebars, and there’s very little chug in terms of processing. The real caveat comes in the graphics department, but even then it’s not as bad as you’re probably expecting. Yes, some levels have had their assets paired back in order to free up more space for performance, but there are so many levels where you can see every detail of a bustling city or sun-tinged lumberyard that the odd conveniently-placed sandstorm really isn’t that much of an issue.
There’s a fair bit of blurring employed and look close enough and you’ll notice even your avatar suffers from some asset rasterization when stood on the main menus or when buzzing along mid-race. If you’re a visual fidelity purist this will surely irritate you, but if you’re actively choosing the Switch version over the PS4 or Xbox One edition then you should really know a multiplatform port is going to have to make concessions, and Trials Rising – much like the NBA 2K series – makes most of the right ones to get this beloved franchise running on Nintendo Switch.
So what makes Trials Rising a proper instalment in its own right? Right from the off, it’s clear to see RedLynx hasn’t strayed too far from the formula that’s served it well for so long. You’ll still race along a 2.5D plane, trying to pull off the best times while controlling both your rider and the bike in a ballet of physics, skill and luck. If you’re hoping for some grand re-imagining of the series, this isn’t it, but there are just enough new ideas and approaches to make this one of the most well-rounded entries since Trials Evolution perfected itself in 2012.
There are hundreds of tracks to compete in, and each one comes with its own contract to compete. From beating a certain player to finishing within a set number of fails, each one offers an extra way to unlock new items for customising your rider and bikes and XP – for ranking up and, you guessed it, opening crates for more cosmetic goodies. The faster your time or the higher your score, and you’ll bag even more XP. Progression comes at just the right pace, with difficulty spiking periodically to ensure that newfound sense of confidence is duly tested with fresh challenges and tests of two-wheeled prowess.
The new University of Trials mode will be a godsend for those new to the franchise, offering an in-depth breakdown of every possible facet of the game from perfecting leaning to gaining more height from front wheel bunny hops. Once you progress to new regions and unlock progressively more difficult tracks, this tutorial mode will really come in useful thanks to the sheer depth of skills and physics nuance that are covered.
The Track Editor is also present and correct on Nintendo Switch, complete with assets and objects from Trials Evolution, Fusion, Rising and Trials of the Blood Dragon. There are a lot of options to get to grips with, but don’t expect much help as there’s no in-built tutorial mode. Considering the sheer effort RedLynx went to in order to create the University of Trials, it's odd that it didn’t think to include a portion for the Track Editor. You’ll have to go to its official YouTube page to find said tutorials which is, let’s be honest, a cop-out at best. It’s a shame because the rest of Trials Rising is so well calibrated for newcomers.
Trials Rising is the (mostly) full package you’ve been waiting for. With its huge list of tracks to tackle and all the races and trick-based stunts you could ask for, RedLynx has served up the best instalment in the series since Trials Evolution. With a killer soundtrack, tons of customisation and an impressively deep tutorial mode, it’s only really let down by a tutorial-free Track Editor. The drop to 30fps might put off those also playing on other platforms and the drop in visual fidelity can be hard to miss at times, but despite its blemishes, Trials has proved its right at home on Nintendo Switch.