My time with Trials Evolution got me thinking a lot about human perfectibility. It's essentially the principle that no matter how good a person is at something, given enough will and effort, there's still ostensibly room for them to get even better. That idea seems to be one that developer RedLynx banks on. "Yeah, you did great that time," the Trials games smirk, "but bet you can't shave off two more seconds off that time…" And so back you go.
What keeps you coming back to a Trials track is the design vocabulary embedded inside each level. The little hills and dips taunt you to master their inclines while the looping ramps goad you into foolhardy stunts that will cost you time or dignity. The remarkable thing about Evolution is how it feels simultaneously tight and loose. The physics are super-sensitive but they unfold in a world that's obviously been meticulously tuned.
Like its predecessor, Trials Evolution requires an exacting precision when it comes to shifting your body weight forward and back to make jumps and climb steep slanted surfaces. But where Trials HD's levels were mostly foreboding indoor contraptions, Evolution embraces the great outdoors with beautifully detailed designs and feels funnier, freer and less sadistic as a result.
There's a broad sense of humor that comes through almost every track and the assemblage of catapaults, water spouts and boost strips kept me smiling at their inventiveness even as they made my life hell.
You might be worried that the change in atmosphere means that RedLynx has made Trials too friendly. Don't worry. They haven't. There has been some adjustment with regard to how the challenges roll out up but Evolution is still incredibly challenging. You'll get intimately aware with the springiness of your controller triggers and the resistance of the analog sticks, because it seems like the slightest micrometer movements could mean the difference between success and failure.
Control and chaos snuggle up to each other tightly in Trials Evolution and players will find themselves trying to squirm their way in between the two extremes. Play too conservative and you won't experience the biggest thrills of certain levels; do the opposite and you'll constantly be bouncing back to checkpoints to make up for reckless flips.
Because you ran through its levels solo, playing Trials HD felt like doing push-ups in your living room. The addition of multiplayer makes Evolution feel like a potato sack race during recess. It's fun but if you really want to win, you need to be incredibly focused. Supercross races pit you against as many as three other players on the same screen. Competing on the trials tracks has you contending against the ghosts of other players on the same track at the same time. I experienced almost no lag during either mode.
The track creations playable at launch already impress me with the flexibility. Playing through the user-generated levels reminded me of LittleBigPlanet but with tighter physics, more mud and much more screaming. The possibilities aren't limited to motorbike racing either. I played an FPS track, along with homages to Jetpack Joyride, Super Meat Boy and Angry Birds. They all worked incredibly well, both as jokes and their own experiences.
You'll get two flavors of track editor—Lite and Pro—in Trials Evo and I was able to slap together a rudimentary but fun environment very quickly. There's a unique sort of misdirection that pops up when playing a user track. A race could go on for minutes, meandering with sudden twists and challenging you with ramps and slopes.
On one track called "the big ride," I just knew that its creator was screwing with me after two turns made it seem like I was going to head straight into a wall. And its creator FAyMIngchOWOwa most definitely was. But I enjoyed that the surprise and uncertainty that he or she created in the track.
The new category of Skill Games held some surprises, too. It's a repository of wildly experimental experiences where you can pilot a UFO, ride without brakes or try to finish using as little gas as possible. Some of them feel like disposable novelties but they do a good job of expanding on just how much creativity lies inside of Evolution.
It's designed to be a game that you experience in small, bite-sized chunks butTrials Evolution feels more like training for a marathon. It's an experience where you need to master the mechanics of your own body gradually for an awesome reward. I've never been so aware of my thumbs and how they throb and cramp as I have been while playing Trials Evolution. It may offer a more a more forgiving difficulty ramp, but it still hurts. In a very, very good way.