Trials Fusion is a game with a simple premise: stay on your dirt bike or ATV as long as you can while driving through an obstacle course. But while this has some minor problems, the game — which RedLynx has made for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PCs — is solid enough to overcome them.
For those unfamiliar with this series, Trials Fusion is a 2D driving/fun-with-physics game that has you riding a motocross bike or four-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle on a series of increasingly sadistic and inventive tracks full of ski-jump-esque ramps, collapsing roadways, and other hazards. All of which you navigate by using the gas and brake where appropriate, as well as by leaning forward and back in your seat. This latter mechanic allows you to do back flips and forward rolls when you hit a big jump, but you’ll actually use it more to course correct when you find yourself leaning forward or backwards too much and are about to go face first into the mud.
Where things start to get unrealistic (in a good way) is in how it uses the leaning mechanic in physically impossible ways. When you start the second event, for instance, you learn how you can do a back flip to land on a platform that’s behind you. And it only gets weirder from there.
And tougher as well. While the courses in the first event are fairly simple, they get increasingly more complicated and challenging as the game goes on. Though it helps that the tracks have been built on a planet where gravity is slightly less than that of Earth. Which is why you fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
Though what’s nice about Trials Fusion is that, even on the toughest courses, it’s pretty liberal when it comes to checkpoints. Every track has a bunch, and you not only go back to the last one when you fall down and go boom, but you can also restart at the last one or even the beginning of the track whenever you’d like a do-over.
Being so generous with the checkpoints does, admittedly, make it a bit easy to get through some of these tracks, especially if you don’t mind doing sections over and over. But just getting to the end isn’t really the point. There’s a difference between living…and living well, and Trials Fusion drives this point home by giving you a bronze, silver, or gold medal at the end of each run, which depend on how quickly, and how well, you complete that track.
Now, maybe you don’t care about such things. Maybe you’re not easily distracted by shiny objects. Good for you. Too bad you need those medals to unlock events. You won’t, for example, get to play the second event if you only earned bronze medals on the first one’s tracks. Which is where the real challenge comes in, because while the tracks in Trials Fusion are easy to beat, they’re not that easy to master.
Trials Fusion also does a good job of mixing things up. Aside from the normal courses, for instance, there are also some where you have to do a bunch of tricks to score high, as well as skill courses at the end of each event that challenge you to, say, drive far without leaning.
Needless to say, Trials Fusion has a lot to recommend it. But it’s far from perfect. For starters, the game’s progression system is a waste of time. As you level up and earn money, you can unlock different rides (which you can repaint), and can then buy parts for those rides (which you can also repaint) and outfits for your rider. Most of which doesn’t matter since they’re just cosmetic changes that don’t improve your breaking, acceleration, or anything else helpful.
It isn’t until you unlock the ATV at the beginning of the fourth event that you notice a difference, since it’s noticeably faster and slightly sturdier than any of the bikes. Which may be why the tracks in the fourth event are the easiest in the game. Not only did I earn gold medals for the five courses in that event where you ride the ATV, but I got some of them on my first try. It’s just too bad the game dictates what rides you can use on certain tracks, since I’d love to use the ATV all the time.
Much like the progression system, some of the tricks you learn in the training levels are also pointless. In the third one, for example, you learn how leaning back and forth quickly can make you do a little hop. But after doing them in that training level, I never found myself needing to do it again.
Along with the single-player career, Trials Fusion also has local multiplayer modes, where you and a friend can compete against each other. But since you’re really just competing against the track like you do in the career mode — it’s not like this has some weird Team Deathmatch mode or anything — it makes multiplayer seem like a waste of time as well.
But the absolute worst thing about Trials Fusion is the music. The terrible, terrible music. It sounds like something you’d see in a bad ’80s action movie set in the not-so-distant future and has the hero going to a rock concert. Or a shitty supergroup made up of guys who were kicked out of Filter, Powerman 5000, and The Crystal Method. Or that band Orgy. Thankfully, you can turn it off. Otherwise, I would’ve rage quit this game before the first training level. And even so, when I start the game, I still hit mute on my stereo so I won’t have to hear this crappy music while waiting for the saved options settings to load.
For all it’s flaws, though, Trials Fusion is still a lot of fun, especially for those who like to redo things until they get them just right. Sure, it’s too bad some of the stuff that surrounds it isn’t as well done, or is even horrible (fuckin’ music). But none of it, thankfully, ever really gets in the way of what is an addictive and compelling game.