I’m not, admittedly, a huge fan of traditional racing games; big, cartoonish bikes with absurd items to throw at other players have always been more interesting to me than traditional racing games. Trials has always rode the line for me between these, as a game that’s fairly committed to the wackiness of its tracks, while also committing to its perspective as a game for people that really understand bikes. I got to play a demo of Trials Rising at E3 this year, that showed how well the series as a whole follows this formula.
If you don’t know, the Trials games are notoriously tough motorbike racing games, in which players are required to finish tracks while doing tricks and trying their best not to wipe out. Trials Rising, announced as the first mainline Trials game in 4 years, is no different. However, it weaves its difficulty into exciting and intuitive modes of play.
The first thing that I noticed is that the game is pretty, which isn’t a surprise for Ubisoft. However, aside from its environmental aesthetics, Trials Rising has sponsors from actual motorcycle manufacturers like KTM. The in-game bikes reflect the sleek and smooth designs of their real-world counterparts. Certain maps and stages are also sponsored by manufacturers as well and give players an extra challenge. For example, some sponsored maps require players to do 3 front flips and 3 back flips before crossing the finish line.
The challenges across maps are tough, but enticingly doable. Trials Rising, like most games in the series, does an amazing job of teaching players through failure. On particularly tough maps, you’ll start to notice yourself saying, “okay, wheelie here, tilt right just a bit, make sure you land on the back wheel.” It’s a delicate balance of manipulating the controls and memorization, and Trials Rising nails it. If you’re nervous about making too many mistakes, the game, like other Trials entries, allows players to restart from checkpoints instantly. It seems like a small touch, but tough games recognizing the need to restart, and restart fast, is always a great touch.
As for how it differs, Trials Rising incorporates a new game mode for local multiplayer, called “Tandem Biking,” which allows two players to ride the same at the same time, with both controlling the balance and speed of their bike. I got to play with one of the game’s developers, and the game mode really breeds an organic opportunity for communication:
“Okay, flip this way.”
“Are we gonna try for a backflip?”
“Yeah, or we can swing it on the next hill.”
This type of communication is integral to Tandem Bike mode, which really wants you to be in sync with the other rider. As a co-op mode, it’s significantly cooperative; instead of just sitting in a room with another player, Trials Rising wants you to have a constant dialogue with your co-rider. A small downside is that Tandem Bike isn’t available on every map, but that’s a minor problem, considering how important Trials’ community is to the development team. Custom maps sourced from the Trials community will be a huge part of the game, which will add a great air of customization to this new mode.
In all, what I played of Trials Uprising was a deeply refreshing game to end E3 on, one that celebrates its roots and is clearly finding ways to remix what players have come to expect. Even as someone that’s become admittedly uncomfortable with tough games, it made failing seem like an exciting challenge rather than a frustrating drag. Trials Uprising will be out on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in February 2019.