Trials Fusion Review
Trials Fusion is zany. You’re not supposed to take it seriously even for one second, which is part of its undeniable charm. There’s something so mesmerizing about flinging yourself haphazardly off outrageous jumps, wondering what new brand of lunacy awaits you around the next corner. It doesn’t have quite enough meat on its bones and there’s not enough direction for the creation tools, but otherwise, this is a damn fun game. The treacherous circuits are begging to be explored and if you fail, you can laugh at your ragdoll body, flopping about like a fish out of water. That’s fun, too.
There’s a cleanliness to these well-designed environments that I really like. Developers have gotten so good at refining a chosen visual palette; this particular atmosphere relies heavily on design and the perception of height and distance. As such, the team puts a ton of effort into focusing on these critical elements, and they do a good job. Sure, you could be all anal and nitpick: “Oh, that texture isn’t so great.” I see no point in doing so, though, because you never pause long enough to focus on a fuzzy texture or isolated batch of less-than-attractive pixels. There aren’t many such examples, anyway.
The sound fits the loopy presentation, as we get a lively, almost irreverent soundtrack that, like the game, doesn’t take itself seriously. The effects range from crisp and intense to hilarious, as cringe-worthy audio often accompanies a gut-wrenching crash. It’s all very lighthearted, though; it’s not like you’re hearing the agonized screams of a dying rider every few minutes. The combination of the effective and diverse soundtrack and the solid effects make for a complete, entertaining technical package. Everything is geared toward the prospect of “fun” and in my eyes, that should be the manifest intent of every video game.
The obstacle course is challenging and at times, totally inexplicable. The jumps are absurd, the drops are oftentimes even more absurd, bumps in the road can send you sprawling, and practice doesn’t always make perfect. There’s no doubt that, especially on the later courses, Trials Fusion can be an immensely frustrating game. The good news is that it doesn’t start out frustrating, as you begin on relatively easy and straightforward courses that allow you to become accustomed to the controls. Those controls are a mite loose for my taste but over time, you’ll soon gain a firm handle on your bike. It’s just a matter of repetition and anticipation.
I really love the exotic albeit fictitious locales; one minute, you’re racing through a forbidding, subzero environment and the next, you’re facing an arid desert landscape. No matter where you go, though, you will always find a bevy of obstacles that require your immediate and unwavering attention. The goal is to complete each course as quickly as possible, which admittedly isn’t my thing. I prefer to take my time and maneuver my bike as I see fit, as I was typically allowed to do in Joe Danger. Here, it’s not all about finding hidden collectibles and performing crazy tricks. No, for the most part, you’re going for speed and accuracy.
As I said above, the irritation level mounts when you breeze past the easier tracks and encounter the tougher challenges. At some point, you start to focus on just completing the course, which can prove outrageously difficult unless you’ve spent a lot of time with the game. This is my biggest problem: I don’t mind steep difficulty, especially as a game progresses, but this got a little ridiculous. It started to feel as if the designers placed certain obstacles simply to piss you off and at that point, you’re about ready to snap the controller in two. There are plenty of checkpoints and restarting a course is quick and easy, but even that can’t alleviate the stress and tension.
However, there’s always the possibility that you can distract yourself with high-flying tricks. The only problem is that you won’t be rewarded for playing the daredevil on normal courses; only when you participate in trick-oriented events will you receive such recognition. I’ve never liked the idea of using the right analog stick to pull off stunts but it works quite well here. And thankfully, with three challenges per track, you’re not always trying to do the same thing, over and over. Some unique challenges are just plain ridiculous, like when you must face down a penguin in a bizarre game of tennis. This adds variety and spice to a game that can get repetitive and taxing.
As for the creation tools, they’re somewhat mystifying. While there’s plenty to do, you’re not given any direction whatsoever. There’s no tutorial and instead, you’re told to go to a certain YouTube page for further explanation. I hate this forced inclusion of other forms of media; either put it in the game or don’t. Even if I didn’t despise YouTube, the bottom line is that it completely disrupts the flow of play; it means I have to get out of the game and go watch something just to figure out how to make something. Don’t be so lazy. I can read, you know; you could just toss in a brief tutorial.
Anyway, the majority of the game is wildly entertaining because you’re always trying to push yourself higher and farther. It also helps that the game keeps track of your best times, and you can compare your performance(s) to those of your Friends. Trying to top their best times can be addicting, as it is with the Autolog in the Need for Speed games. Once you’ve come to terms with the control and the rapidly increasing difficulty, you’ll fully appreciate what this experience has to offer. Just take it easy, revel in the high-flying goodness, and apply a steady hand to the task at…uh…hand.
Trials Fusion can be addictive and wonderfully intoxicating at times. At other times, it will make you burn with a frustrated rage others might find frightening. The good news is that you spend a lot more time smiling than frowning, as you’ll love the zany courses and enticing backdrops, as well as the various challenges available for each track. You’ll pull off a wicked trick here, carefully negotiate another difficult obstacle there, and laugh at another truly genuine challenge (riding a rocket?) that has absolutely nothing to do with riding a dirt bike. Just be careful and try not to lose your sh** in front of others…that can be damaging to your reputation.
The Good: Playful, solid technical elements. Great locales and very well-designed tracks. Tricks add more lighthearted flair. Various challenges add diversity. Can be extremely rewarding. Puts a premium on fun.
The Bad: Control isn’t always perfect. Sometimes feels very unforgiving. Lack of direction for the track editor mechanic.
The Ugly: “Don’t ever make me go to YouTube or Facebook or wherever so I can get some basic game instruction.”
5/9/2014 Ben Dutka