Some game mechanics stay timeless in a variety of ways, and even now many games love to play with the motocross game mechanics of old. Read on to see if it is worth flipping off-road stunt-bikes along pipes and buildings for £6.29 in Urban Trial Freestyle from Strangelands, of which some of the team were behind old 'classics' such as Prehistorik Man and Automobili Lamborghini!
There is a good chance that anyone who has been gaming a while has at some point played a side-scrolling Extreme Sports game; from Excitebike on the ol' NES to Ubisoft's Trials series. The concept of Urban Trial Freestyle is similar; acceleration (A), breaking (B), reversing (Y), and changing the bike tilt with the analogue stick are the name of the game here. Mastering control of the bikes' speeds and tilts is as steep as it's ever been when getting used to new physics, but luckily there are no frustrating glitches or control errors to cause that experience to buckle and fall.
Of course, Urban Trial Freestyle is more than just those tried 'n' tested game mechanics; its claim to fame supposedly lies in the customisation and urban-themed stage and stunt designs. This theme is immediately obvious in many ways besides the title itself. The screens are adorned with graffiti-stricken cityscapes, heavy music, and a player character that looks like he may be using steroids as a substitute for his somewhat lacking safety-wear. Upon booting the game there's an option to activate Nintendo Network features, but unfortunately this is little more than leader-boards for each stage's scores, missing the potential to share ghosts or created tracks with others. Nonetheless, this online scores feature is very handy in the stages themselves as a marker for the world record score is placed on every stunt, and managing to beat one on the fly is definitely satisfying.
After the aforementioned option, the confusing and unclear black and white menu icons strike. The menus can be navigated with buttons or touch, but Urban Trial Freestyle's main shortcoming is the lack of proper in-game explanation on many features. The digital manual often comes in handy for this, but even menu options and selections don't always say what clicking them will do. While it's easy enough to find costume customisation, options and the track editor, one of the game's key components - bike customisation - is made too fiddly by the lack of clarity on what bike section is being edited. It can, of course, be figured out, but menus should really be much clearer than this for first-time players. Occasional hints on loading screens offer interesting titbits, but they are ultimately not substantial enough to substitute a decent tutorial or helpful pause menu.
As mentioned previously, tilting bikes isn't all there is to Urban Trial Freestyle. The City Map option leads to the level select, which gives the option of Stunt or Time Trials. Time Trial simply means getting through each stage as fast as possible, and may be more enjoyable once enough money is collected through Stunt stages to afford bike upgrades, but Stunt Trial is the bulk of the experience. While it's tempting to race through stages to get a good time score, it's important to pay attention to the stunt sections in these stages, which the manual shines more light on than the game itself does. Stunts rely on getting a high jump, a long jump, jumping to an exact spot, front/back-flipping the bike with the analogue stick, or going as fast as possible through a certain point. Initially some of these are hard to do well on, and especially beat the world record (which is displayed in green for those connected to Nintendo Network), but exploring the Stunt Trials can reward with money and hidden spots with different stunts (or more money!). Doing better stunts means more money, which means more customisation, improving at stunts, and so on and so forth.
The gameplay is also fortunately solid, and while the lack of speed may initially frustrate, it gets better with upgrades. The physics are enjoyable and good stunts give a feeling of satisfaction, while the 3D effect gives a good feeling of depth, with the biker getting focus compared to the background. Unfortunately this can also cause issues as it's sometimes hard to tell what is part of the background and what is part of the track, and not knowing what comes up next (especially when travelling at a good speed) means that missing stunts or totally messing them up is a common occurrence in initial runs. Still, such is the nature of "Trials", right? Trial and error.
There are five different areas, each with four tracks, so 20 tracks within the main game, and each track has both a Stunt and Time Trial version giving 40 trials overall. Unfortunately, all this can be finished quickly, and less dedicated players will hang up there and then. For the more dedicated, getting a tough four-or-five star rank on each area will unlock goodies like new bikes and special Challenge stages. These "Challenge Trials" are very interesting and challenging indeed. For example, one uses the 3DS gyroscope to change the gravity that a bike rides at. These gimmicks, while interesting, can be very frustrating at times, so it's not a bad thing that they were relegated to secrets. Unlocking them is a challenge in itself, giving the completionists a whole lot of "trial" and error to play with. Speaking of which, for the creative trial-ers out there, the previously mentioned track editor allows creation of almost any structure the likes of which are seen in City Mode...with the patience to build it, that is. There seems to be no organisation at all in the track editor's pieces, and if there was, this reviewer wasn't able to see it, leaving the creative process to be sometimes an experience that wasn't really worth it, especially when it lacks the ability to share with other players across the globe.
A mixture of fun ideas - new and old - with regular checkpoints to keep frustration at bay. A lot has been done before, but some of the stunts and stage gimmicks will satisfy many players. Unfortunately, checking the digital manual to understand what's going on is sometimes a necessity; the game doesn't teach itself to others very well.
Solid visuals, and even the 3D effect leaves more of an impression than many physical titles. Unfortunately, though, this is a bit double-edged, as not being able to tell what's bike-safe and what's not in the rugged urban stages is something the extra detail doesn't help with.
Heavy music litters the soundtrack, giving the urban landscape an even stronger urban..ness; nothing special or memorable, but good quality. The biker's quiet comments on stunts are sometimes humorous in how bad-ass they try to sound. Saying "epic..." in a gruff voice is still cool guys!
The City tracks can be completed quickly, especially when knowing how to do everything. Fortunately, unlocking Challenge Trials is tough and getting good scores on them is even tougher. Plus, got a good idea for a killer track? The track editor's there from the get-go with 30 track slots to play with, but online features for ghosts and the track editor could have helped the value substantially.
Urban Trial Freestyle could definitely have been a better game with better in-game explanations and online features. Perhaps it should have been called "Urban Trial-and-Error Freestyle", as this is a solid pick up and play game harmed by its ironic learning curve. On the plus-side, this also gives it more replayability, which is perfectly enjoyable when sussed. Flipping around is good fun for small blasts and for challenging oneself, but once it's over there's not enough incentive to come back. It's currently on sale for £4.99, so if bad-ass bike-flipping sounds like your game, get it while the tyres are hot!
I really like the game! still playing it daily to try and get better scores/times. definitely worth a play.
It looks great , feels great and exclusive track editor is just awesome. I recommend this to everyone.