Trials 2: Second Edition
Once, perhaps twice in our lives, each of us will meet someone we love. It’s not a case of simply thinking they’re attractive, or funny, or kind – it’s absolute devotion of the most unconditional nature. They may have flaws, but they matter not a jot to us and if we’re lucky our feelings will be genuinely reciprocated. It is an unfortunate fact that occasionally disharmony exists, and the warm connection one swears is there is met on the other side by lukewarm indifference. In rarer cases, it can be replaced by freezing cold hatred. Make no mistake; Trials 2: Second Edition despises you. It wants you to fail, to suffer, to scream in agony as the ragdoll physics kick in and the dirt-bike’s (former) rider is catapulted face-first into a solid metal pole. This is a videogame that relishes the moment its player unleashes his or her unmitigated fury by breaking their knuckles on the wall, smashing their keyboard to smithereens, throwing a hamster off a cliff or drop-kicking a small child in the jaw. This is love.
Our experiences with games are often measured on how well they fulfil their aims, and the degree to which something succeeds can be considered contentious in certain players’ eyes. Perhaps a family title for the Wii is particularly accessible, so much so that the very young, old or disabled can understand and enjoy the game with little or no difficulty. The hardcore demographic may dislike what it sets out to do in the first place, so even in conception it is flying in the face of the traditionalist gaming elite. Trials 2 at first appears to be a mildly engaging casual release with an hilarious way of presenting failure, but the very instant it has the hooks firmly in place it reveals the snarling, unforgiving beast within. It was clearly designed to be hard work for the player, and to this end it excludes roughly 90% of potential buyers. The remaining tenth will positively savour the experience and eventually reap considerable rewards – “eventually” being the operative word.
“Failure is exclusively down to the player’s own incompetence”Trials 2 is all about persistence, see. One particular checkpoint may take the best part of an hour to reach, because as soon as that steely determination is allowed to take charge it’s nigh-on impossible to drop out of a play session; defeatism has no place here. The gameplay itself is essentially in two dimensions and control is assigned to the keyboard’s directional buttons, with acceleration on the vertical axis and the left and right keys controlling pitch. In a way it’s reminiscent of Super Mario World’s perfectly balanced system whereby failure is exclusively down to the player’s own incompetence. It’s not quite as refined as the seminal SNES platformer; there are occasional glitches on the bike itself, and though often chuckle-worthy in the way the vehicle can contort itself, it’s not a laughing matter if one is inches from the level’s goal when the rear wheel begins protruding from the rider’s back.
Progress through the obstacle course-esque stages is checkpoint based, with scant few obstructions and possibly seconds of gameplay separating those in the later levels. Fortunately for the sadists that enjoy this game, those few seconds and obstacles could take upwards of one-hundred attempts to overcome. The degree to which the bike can be manipulated is commendable, and often the solution to a problem can be worked out by the third or fourth attempt, though it’s only in execution of those actions that success can be achieved. Reverse to the edge of the platform, lean most of the way forwards, pick up speed and shift the rider’s weight backwards as he hits the ramp, then forwards again so the front wheel bumps the wall and tap the keys in rhythm to ensure a safe landing. If that sounds a little challenging – bearing in mind it will all take place within a few ticks of the clock – then it’ll be a relief to know that lives are infinite and there is restart from checkpoint button on backspace, one which soon becomes indispensable.
“With the tiniest slip, he’s flailing over half the course…”It’s already been touched upon, but the rider’s unenviable mishaps truly are a sight to behold. With the tiniest slip, he’s flailing in a great arc over half of the course, bumping off of everything in his path, landing in the most horrendous ways and having his body ripped to shreds. These are accompanied by a special counter in the corner of the screen which tallies up all the bones broken in the level so far, topped off by a Steam Achievement for smashing all of them in a single crash. The squirm-inducing crunch sound effects and character status messages [“The rider is dead!”] are the icing on the cake. With the space bar serving as a bail button, it’s tellingly one of the game’s most prominent features and can prove an excellent way to ease frustration if the next challenge seems insurmountable.
Trials 2 has a sizeable list of levels, and if the patience is there it can prove to have surprisingly long legs. At times it can indeed feel unfair, as if no matter what one tries there is no way the game will succumb to it and, at its lowest, that luck is more the governing factor. The stage variety is admirable and even those that can’t attest to having completed the harder modes will get something from the experience. There’s a level editor and though most will dip in once and never touch it again it’s a fine addition for those who wish to tinker. There are also several tracks which use the physics engine on the obstacles, often to great effect, and these are often more entertaining, if just as formidable, as the bread and butter courses.
What each player gets out of Trials 2: Second Edition will depend on how much they’re willing to pour in, and there’s definitely a satisfaction to be gleaned from mastering the bike’s movement. Of course there are some issues, but it’s well presented, enjoyable and, as has doubtless become abundantly apparent, ridiculously hard. It may be a tough nut to crack, but just like the most invaluable of real-life partners, that makes the effort all the more gratifying in the end.