Developer: RedLynx Ltd
Developer: Microsoft
Release: August 12, 2009
Genre: Racing / Puzzle
Players: 1
Age Rating: ESRB: T (Teen) / PEGI: 3+
Price: 1200 msp

Trials HD is one of those games that fits very snugly into the category of simple fun. Like many of the better XBox Live Arcade games, it has a simple principle, crafted into a pleasingly fun experience.

I seem to recall playing a 2D flash version of this many years ago on newgrounds (Elasto Mania) and the concept was much the same as it is with Trials HD, a motorbike game of sorts, which plays out in 2D. Trials HD of course has a full 3D environment, however you are restricted to moving left and right, up and down in 2D, and the bike never moves in or out of the screen. Basically all you need concern yourself with is forwards and backwards.

The standard game mode is simply time trials on a variety of courses ranging from the relatively simple to the punishingly hard. If you lean too far forward or back your bike will tip, and if your head or back hit a surface it's a crash and you must restart or reset to a checkpoint. Of course you must often tip yourself so that the wheels align towards the surface you're heading for, incase you crack your head!

To get gold medals for each track, you pretty much have to do it in one run without crashing and in a fairly speedy time. Easy enough until you hit the end of the 'medium' set of tracks. As a nice touch, the timer at the top also displays the progress if any of your friends on the same level in an unobtrusive manner. If you find yourself unable to achieve a gold medal - you can at least try and best your friend's times!

Later on you'll find loops and physics-ey balancing sections, requiring careful control of your speed and orientation - like I mentioned earlier, if you're heading right for a wall you need to make sure your wheels face down onto the surface, likewise if you're heading for the roof - rotate upside down to protect your precious head!

It's a nice system, and 'nice' is a word I don't really like or use often, it implies that there's nothing offensive or wrong with this game, but at the same time, it doesn't blow me away. But that's ok, because I don't think you need to be blown away to enjoy a game.

That I remember enjoying the 2D flash version of Elasto Mania, many years ago, and had as much fun as I've had with Trials HD, says alot about the effectiveness of the core gameplay mechanic.

You unlock challenges too, which differ not only from the main time trial mode, but also from each other. One challenge wants you to bail out of your bike and send your driver hurtling down a large ravine, with points awarded for the most bones broken! Another might see you try and maintain balance to the end of the level, whilst inside a giant hamster ball - then try one where you are on top of the ball on the outside! Gently carry a trolley with missiles that explode after too much bumpiness or simple try the mountain climber challenge - where victory is decided by how high you can scale a ramp.

Some of these are really difficult, and there's frustration galore in both the main game and the challenges. But it's fun frustration, if that makes sense. Like N+, there's a drive to get better and you know if you replay a level you're stuck on, just one more try might get you through it! You learn to balance better and to manage your movement.

When you're done with all that there's even a detailed and full scale track editor which is incredibly complex, and apparently what the designers used to make the actual game.

It's a hard game to sum up, but basically it's a nice concept, a proven fun gameplay mechanic with plenty of challenging courses and tests of control, and the option for user created content that's on par with the actual game. Addictive and frustrating in equal measure, nicely presented graphically, there's little to complain about overall, but also, it's essentially a lot of what we've seen before repackaged.

There's no denying the fun that can be had with it, and if you find yourself with the points, this is worth a download, if even just for the hilarious crashes that can happen - you'll be cursing whilst any onlookers guffaw at your misfortune.

A decent game, with many hours of fun and frustration. Worth the money. If you liked N+, you'll probably like this.