Trials Evolution was developed by RedLynx and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released April 18, 2012 for 1200 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Oh RedLynx, how are we supposed to get anything done when you release such addictive games? We logged close to a hundred hours into Trials HD, and grew a three day beard trying to complete the expert tracks. Looks like we’ll have to quit our jobs, because now Trials Evolution is out.

Evolution builds on everything that’s great about Trials HD. For the uninitiated the premise to to ride a motorcycle over obstacles and to the finish. The left and right triggers control the throttle and brake while the left thumbstick controls the rider’s balance. It’s a simple yet incredibly addictive formula that RedLynx started back in 2000, and Trials Evolution is the latest and greatest installment in the series.

Here’s what we liked:

More trials – RedLynx has a long history with the Trials franchise. It didn’t start with Trials HD. It started in 2000 with plain ol’ Trials, a flash-styled 2D trial bike game that’s been cloned by other developers hundreds of times over. With each installment the trial bike tracks challenges got harder while environments became more lush. Trials Evolution turns the amp up to 11 with its over-the-top environments and difficult-yet-enjoyable challenges.

Better rider/bike customizationTrials HD was, well, light on the customization. You could change the colors for your bike and rider, but that’s where it ended. Evolution adds the ability to buy helmets, gloves, shirts, pants and boots for your rider along with a slew of parts for each individual bike. The color wheel allows  you to ‘paint’ each part of your rider and bike. All upgrades are cosmetic only, meaning you can have your bike the way you want without sacrificing performance.

Multiplayer – While seeing your friends’ track times scratches that competitive itch nothing can beat actually taking on your friends. Four friends can go for the goal in an Excitebike-style four lane race or can jump into a trials track. During trials races your three friends will appear as ghost bikes. It’s an interesting way to implement existing tracks. While online play was maxed out on release day the pre-release games were excellent and lag free. We expect that once the servers are upgraded to handle the player base finding matches will be much easier.

The track editor(s)Trials HD was known among its most hardcore fans for its built-in track editor. It was robust, yet simple to use. Evolution builds upon that base with a two different editors: Lite and Pro. The Lite editor gives players the ability to build tracks using the plethora of objects included. After a few minutes to acclimate oneself to the controls tracks can be created quickly and easily. The Pro editor adds additional skill game-based objects along with a complex logic system. Things such as controls, camera, and math can be created using a simple flowchart style system. RedLynx released several custom minigames using this editor including spoofs of Angry Birds and Super Meat Boy. It’s truly powerful and we can’t wait to see what the community comes up with.

Revamped track sharing system – The single most painful issue with Trails HD was its track sharing system. Players could only share tracks between friends, which meant that the less-than-dedicated would miss out on amazing community content. The community has done their best to circumvent this with players filling their friends list to share tracks, however it required a weekly purge of their friends list so that new folks could befriend each other and download tracks. The new system is simple, in-game and efficient. There are presets players can use to find the hottest or newest content along with the ability to search by author and tracks of similar type. Each track can be rated upon completion, which means that the best of the best will be at the top.

A sense of competition – As we played through each course the silent and invisible ghosts of other staff members competed with us. It was a race to see who would have the fastest track time. Even without bragging via Xbox LIVE parties at our scores we all felt that we had to run the track ‘just one more time’. We had to see if we could get second, or maybe dethrone the leader. That sort of competition brings players back time and again.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Some missed opportunities – Given the scope of the game’s editor we can’t help but feel like there were a few missing objects and features. Don’t get us wrong, the both the Lite and Pro editors are amazing. Still, we feel like it’s lacking in a few specific objects: most specifically an ATV, the two door 66′ Impala-style coupe shell from Trials HD, the school bus chassis from RedLynx’s Monster Trucks Nitro, and a train engine (there are cars). We had big plans for driving a train down the tracks at too high a speed, of destruction derby with monster Impalas, and traversing the terrain on an ATV. Oh well, maybe this means we’ll have a few minutes each day where we won’t be playing the game. Just enough time for a bathroom break and to eat. Still, if RedLynx is listening we’re hoping these items can sneak into a title update.

Back to the basicsTrials Evolution treats all players as though they have never played Trials HD, even though it allows players to have in-game unlocks based on their Trials HD progress. The problem is that seasoned players are put back onto the low-tiered, difficult to control bikes in the beginning. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a really jarring experience to be used to the best Trials HD bike and have to tackle a poor set of bikes the first 30 minutes of Evolution. The good news is that once the third and fourth bikes are unlocked veterans will feel at home again.

If there is one game you purchase at full price this year, let it be Trials Evolution. If you’re not a fan of the difficult levels and skill games there’s still plenty to offer with multiplayer and easy to access community content. The fact that new tracks will continually pour in will keep you coming back weekly, if not daily, and we can’t wait to see what new and crazy skill games the community comes up with.

Trials Evolution is a polished-until-it-shines masterpiece. Every aspect of the game shows RedLynx’s dedication to making something truly special–something not seen by developers all that often. If we gave reviews with numbered scores this game would be a perfect 10. Buy it, love it, get your friends to do the same. You won’t be sorry.

Score: Buy It!!!