Trials 2 Second Edition Review
Valve Software has added a unique and fun new title to its incredible lineup of games on Steam. Trials 2 Second Edition is a new, seemingly casual racing/puzzle game from developers RedLynx. But beneath the simplistic surface is a carefully-created game where the slightest change of strategy could rocket you to the top of your friends' high score lists.
Trials 2 is a side-scrolling game where you control a dirt bike on many courses that start off as just fun places to do jumps and wheelies, and eventually turn into grueling tests of your skill where you could see utter failure if your rider goes off-balance for just a split second. Luckily, the meat of the game is in between the two, so gamers of most skill levels will have a lot of fun with Trials 2.
It's kind of weird seeing a game that's like a cross between Nintendo's original Excitebike (or one of many side-scrolling dirt bike games out there) and the physics-based action of the internet classic Ski Stunt Simulator. It's a blast overall, though, as the rider can be knocked off the bike in thousands of hilarious ways - and some of the sadistic level creators have put together specific pitfalls that lead to these ridiculous physics-based crashes.
That being said, the game's not just about repeatedly bonking your rider's head on the ceiling above and giving him a concussion, even if that's how half of my attempts on later stages wound up. It's about navigating these courses quickly and efficiently, using your forward-backward balance and throttle and brake to deftly get through huge inclines, steep drops, massive flips, and obstacles that you won't have much traction on. It starts out with some simple runs showing you how to balance, giving you some nice jumps, and tossing out some lessons on maneuvering your bike.
But its not long after that when you'll be teetering on the edge of a 30-foot drop, staring down at a ramp that leads you to a ladder, stretched upwards, that your bike will then have to climb up. The physics overall are kind of over the top and unrealistic - just leaning back and forth on your bike will cause a wheel to pop off the ground - but it is predictable and can definitely be mastered. It's still a bit strange, though, when you realize that your bike acts more like it's made of styrofoam than out of steel.
Most of the game has you navigating courses for the best time you can muster up. There are multiple checkpoints through each course so that one crash won't screw up minutes worth of work (which you'll find yourself getting to in the later Medium and into the Hard stages). There are other modes, though, that challenge you to get as many flips as you can, wheelie for the longest distances, or even go into courses where the objects aren't static anymore and physics affect things you drive on. Moving to a new mode after a really tough track is a breath of fresh air, so it's nice to have these other modes included.
What really ties Trials 2 together is its integration of worldwide leaderboards in a way that only PC games like the TrackMania series have accomplished so far. Add in full Steam integration where you can compare your times on any of the game's tracks to people on your friends list, and it really starts getting interesting. But my favorite part is that you can view the replay of any run on the leaderboards through any track and even see their key inputs to figure out how they did it. That's thousands of runs that you can compare your best times against, and you can even set these runs up as a ghost to race alongside. RedLynx also included the ability to create teams in-game and have a team's best runs compared against another's.
There's a chat system built into Trials 2, although it seems to be all one big chat room for the whole world and so you've got multiple conversations going on, often in several languages. If that's not good enough, then there's the familiar Steam Community overlay which lets you communicate with your buddies while in-game. Finally, there's also a set of Steam Achievements, although you're going to find out quickly that most of these take a serious amount of skill and practice to accomplish.
The graphics in Trials 2 range from very basic to really quite impressive, depending on how you tweak the game's settings. You certainly won't be challenging any modern, full-priced shooter or strategy game, but Trials 2 is by no means shameful to look at. The only real issue I have is that the only place to race in is this rather dull indoor warehouse, and while the tracks are built with objects that look great, it'd be nice to get outside some time too. Maybe even add some kind of gameplay element with an outdoor setting, like a bit of wind that when gusting could require you to adjust. Beyond that, mustering up complaints is difficult - I've gotten many great hours out of Trials 2 already despite the measly $10 price tag, but I suppose it would have been really nice to see some kind of online multiplayer modes. Still, the extensive community-oriented focus of the game and the dozens of fun tracks to play on easily make up for it.
Trials 2 Second Edition can very easily cross over from simple casual game to a major Steam favorite - much like independent title AudioSurf did. From the hilarity of crashes to the intense feeling of satisfaction when you finally nail the last half of a really tough track and top all your friends' best times, this game is a hell of a lot of fun. And for $10, you've hardly got anything to lose. If you enjoyed any of the TrackMania games or even physics-based racers like FlatOut, then this one's a must have.