Love Trials HD or its sequel Trials Evolution but don't have an Xbox 360? Then you'll be pleased to hear Urban Trial Freestyle offers a very similar experience and is heading to 3DS, PS3 and PS Vita. It's not connected to Trials HD or its developer RedLynx, instead coming from French/Polish software house Tate Interactive and developed with support from real-life trials expert Julien Dupont.
That said, the similarities are evident. You play as an adrenaline-seeking stunt bike maniac... sorry 'rider', battling against both physics and the clock as you navigate increasingly devilish stunt courses packed with hazards. We've been given hands-on-time with almost-finished versions of the PS3 and Vita iterations and took along a camera to film us playing it.
As suspected, a quick prod of X or R2 to accelerate reveals that it plays exactly the same as Trials HD. That means ultra-compulsive try/fail/retry gameplay full of bone-crunching impacts and massive jumps. This is particularly promising news for the Vita, as Sony's new handheld hasn’t had anything as leaderboard-based since Motorstorm RC. The short-burst gameplay fits the handheld well and looks reasonably pretty too as you can see from this video of the (almost finished) PS Vita version in action:
Impressively, the early levels we played on Vita appear to be a straight port of the PS3 version, complete with interactive physics objects in the environments. However, the Vita version also has some bespoke content, namely gyroscope functionality, allowing you (in some levels) to switch the direction of gravity by physically tilting the Vita. Vertical walls are no longer a problem.
If that sounds gimmicky, don’t worry. There are plenty of traditional time attack and stunt levels to face, numbering over 45 in total. There are also some minigames, including the ‘petrol challenge’ (shown at the end of the video) where you’re given a finite amount of fuel with which to reach the far end of the level without running empty. Here, the game's solid physics engine comes into its own as you try to squeeze every ounce of potential energy from an elevated position with as little use of the throttle as possible. Much easier said than done.
Even in the short time we had with the game, we got far too used to hitting Triangle to respawn back at the last checkpoint. Some sections are almost certainly impossible to complete without some trial and error, but the sense of reward when you finally nail a tricky section is excellent. And it helps that a clean run makes you look like a god. This is definitely a game to play with friends watching.
There was less content already unlocked in the save file of the PS3 version we played, so we were able to find some moneybags in hard-to-reach places on the tracks and use the cash to unlock some bike upgrades. Not all need to be purchased, as customisation parts just unlock as you go, allowing you to dress your rider with a selection of 64 various options. Some of the parts can boost top speed or handling, which can help in the minigames.
The best minigame we played featured a small run-up in front of a ramp which subsequently launches you onto three explosive canisters (if you’re going fast enough), which detonate on impact. The further you can fly off the initial ramp, the more acute your launch angle when the canisters explode, propelling you far to the right where your total distance is graded from where your rag-doll body comes to rest. It's not quite as out-there insane as Trials Evolution, but on a par with the gratuitous explosions of Trials HD.
The game is nearing completion and is already plenty of fun, whether you’re just managing to outrun an Indiana Jones-style boulder or laughing at the very painful-looking results of being too slow and getting squashed by it. You will undoubtedly question the rider's wisdom as he rides a stunt bike around some ludicrous locations, but it all adds to the spectacle. For instance:
There are plans for a multiplayer mode to be added post-launch via DLC, if demand is high enough, although the leaderboards will offer that competitive slant from launch. Urban Trial Freestyle is due out in Q1 on PSN, PS Vita and 3DS.