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Trials Fusion review

Trials Fusion, a PSN game by RedLynx and Ubisoft for PlayStation 4We love Trials. We hate Trials. We love Trials. We hate Trials. And so the cycle continues, our on/off romance with RedLynx’s latest physics-based time attack nightmare blasted to either end of the emotional spectrum by every perfectly judged bunny hop, inexplicable bail, moment of perfect throttle control and frustrating oh-so-close moment just shy of a new checkpoint. It’s a game of extremes – when it’s good, it’s so good but when it’s bad, you’ll want to punch every wall ever built.

The good news, though, is that the former massively outweighs the latter. While this marks the franchise’s PlayStation debut, RedLynx’s bike-based platformer has risen through the ranks from PC unknown to Xbox Live Arcade bestseller, and it’s with good reason. Physics and course design are typically excellent in Fusion, with even the seemingly impossible obstacle courses of the endgame made to look like child’s play by skilled riders.

It’s so simple too, at least in theory – all you need to worry about is throttle, brake and leaning either forward or backwards to angle the bike. That’s it. But with each motion comes the risk of the physics engine taking over and ruining your fun. Throw your weight around too much and you’ll lose all-important traction; land awkwardly and approach or momentum for the next hurdle will be affected; lean back up a steep incline or tilt forward while bombing down a hill and you’re likely to end up in hospital.

Not that there is actually a hospital in Trials, but that place would be constantly at full capacity if there were. When learning courses (especially the last few), it’s not unusual for retries to approach or even hit the cap of 500, at which point the game laughs and tosses you back out onto Main Menu Street. You’ll learn from each run, though, and subsequent attempts will edge that figure down until you’re looking to put in zero-fault runs, just as several players (somehow) already have on every single course in the game. They’re either developers or maniacs, but either way you can’t help but admire the skill involved – you can check out the replays of the best riders’ runs to get a better idea of how the impossible is meant to be done, but it does feel a little like having a magician explain their tricks to you.

Trials Fusion, a PSN game by RedLynx and Ubisoft for PlayStation 4A controversial new additions for Fusion is the FMX event, a Joe Danger-esque trick run where risky stunts lead to higher multipliers and huge high scores. Unfortunately, RedLynx’s skills in physics and design don’t seem to apply quite as well when Fusion goes all extreme – the scoring system is shot to hell, landings are frequently chronically misjudged (we’ve had ‘Perfect Landing’ pop up after a head-first bail, among other examples) and even the basic trick controls are flawed. Holding the right stick in a direction initiates a death-defying stunt based on the position of the bike, but tricks must be locked in before flips can be performed or else the rider just flaps around comically in the air and no points are awarded. Or, if you’re lucky, you accidentally pull of about eight different grabs in sequences without even trying. It’s no Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, put it that way.

Having these flimsy events tied into the same campaign as the precise obstacle-packed runs fans will be familiar with is likely to upset some, but dodgy as they may be, they’re still not especially tough to get Gold on (if even by mistake) before returning to the bits of the game that are actually good. This includes the returning multiplayer mode, which is a blast against mates but strangely can’t be taken online – it’s couch competition only, but don’t forget that a Vita can be used as a second controller via Remote Play if you fancy giving it a go.

The course editor returns too, as complex and versatile as ever, as well as a tiny bit more user-friendly thanks to a radial menu. It’s still way more complex than, LittleBigPlanet’s equivalent, meaning that most things created with it are pretty awful right now. But give it a few weeks and the community will likely have already got to grips with the creation suite and produced some mind-blowing stuff – Trial’s Evolution had some absolutely ludicrous user-created content, some so inventive that you wouldn’t even know you were playing Trials. Here’s hoping the same bright sparks pull through once again with Fusion because as with LBP, just browsing, testing and rating user submission is a game in itself, mainly because we’re just too lazy to actually sit down and figure out how it all works for ourselves.

In moving further and further from the purity of the early PC games, Trials is starting to lose a little of its edge. While the core gameplay is still excellent, stunt runs, upgradeable vehicles and connectivity with cash-hungry iOS release Trials Frontier all nudge Fusion further away from that classic, pure game of mastery where only player skill matters. It still is that, for the most part, and it’s still just as good as ever when it is. We’re just slightly concerned that Fusion is Ubisoft just managing to hold it together and maintain balance on a near-vertical incline – a lean or a rev too far and the next game could be an embarrassing fall from grace.

Score: 80%


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