Trials Fusion takes Redlynx's trick-bike platform time trial to the major leagues with bigger tracks, better visuals and insane stunts
Scan through the gaming forums, the SubReddits, the Twitterfeeds and YouTube channels and you'll learn very quickly that Dark Souls 2 is the current toast of the hardcore. This is a game, they say, that reaches out to the deepest sensibilities of players, challenging them to improve themselves in an experience that is eye-wateringly difficult, but fair besides.
To them we say, “Pffft! Finish the Inferno 4 track on Trials Fusion and then we'll talk!”
We take nothing away from Bandai/Namco's superb dungeon crawler, but quite frankly, if there's one game that can hold a candle to it in terms of wrapping a challenge in sublime mechanics and provoking players to improve their performances, it's Redlynx's trick-bike platformer.
Trials Fusion lures players in with a couple of easy levels but before too long they find themselves sitting in front of their console at two in the morning, surrounded by a pile of smashed controllers with possibly a thin line of spit hanging from their lower lip.
Trials Fusion: Gameplay
Admittedly this is because the way players approach Trials Fusion is very similar to its predecessor. Players are tasked with guiding a bloke on a dirtbike around a series of obstacle courses in the shortest time possible, using the rider's weight and the bike's throttle to navigate everything from jumps to breaks in the track to near-vertical inclines.
Sounds simple enough really, and initially it is, but once players polish off the easier levels Trials Fusion ramps up the difficulty curve.
Of course by then, players are hooked. Driven on by their desire to both improve their own time around a track and beat the times posted by any of their friends, players are likely to stay glued to their consoles.
It helps that the controls are intuitive and easy to use. It also helps that there's no lag when players decide to restart a level or a checkpoint; click a button and you're there. It all adds up to one of the most insidiously addictive experiences players are likely to encounter.
Trials Fusion: Features
And it's pretty familiar to anyone who played either Trials HD or Trials Evolution. So what does Fusion bring to the table?
Well, players are now able to pull off stunts while in mid-air; by flicking the thumbstick, they can cause their rider to pull off a series of manic poses that, if they're in mid-spin, may make landing somewhat trickier.
It's worth noting these tricks only earn points on certain levels, so it's best not to show off if you're chasing a faster time.
There are also a boat-load of in-level challenges; once you've smashed the best time on the leaderboard you can earn extra XP by hunting down mini-games in each race. One of these involves crashing through the roof of a cavern and landing in a campfire. Another involves playing tennis against a penguin with a stop sign.
Every piece of XP the player earns levels them up, unlocking more decals, wheels accoutrements for their bikes as well as outfit pieces for their riders.
As they progress through the game, they'll also unlock new bikes including a Quad-Bike – which is heavier to use – and a bicycle – which is a bit more reliant on momentum and rider weight.
The track editor is back – and it's as deep and engrossing as before. Players are free to create and share their tracks with others on Track Central. It's here where the game's true longevity lies beyond the Career Mode and RedLynx plans to add more toolsets to this in the future.
Trials Fusion: Visuals
Trials Fusion is also rather gorgeous to look at. Swapping out the junkyards and warehouses of old, Fusion takes place in futuristic cityscapes, snow-capped glaciers, mist-strew swamps and eventually, the bowels of the Inferno itself. On the PS4 copy it all looks incredibly lush, even if there is the odd shading issue.
Trials Fusion: Verdict
Trials Fusion certainly has a couple of niggles – the training mode for tricks isn't great and the disembodied dialogue in the game is very repetitive – but this is simply put, an essential purchase for anyone looking for an engrossing and addictive challenge.
Just remember that you will need to eat and sleep at some stage and that controllers are expensive, so it's probably best to resist the urge you'll have to smash one. And you will have that urge, trust us…
Trials Fusion release date: Out now
Trials Fusion price: From £28.99