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[Spoiler-Free Review]

Trials Evolution: Gold Edition haphazardly proves good level design and gameplay are paramount.

Let's get some important stuff out of the way first:

This game is H.A.R.D. and challenges can get repetitive/frustrating as you explore the limits of your ability. If you're a completionist trying to get Gold medals (or better) on every challenge, you will be brought to actual tears.

The Uplay client is horrible in practice and is unavoidably required to play the game. This isn't a Uplay review so I'll keep this short, I would highly encourage disabling Cloud Sync in the Uplay client to ensure your saves aren't being mucked around with . I lost an entire day's worth of progress and had to re-do a dozen or so of the more difficult challenges because of syncronization issues I experienced (Jan 2014). Luckily I had a semi-recent backup of my save stored locally.

Once you get past that, you'll find Trials Evolution is worth it where it matters - it's fun. How fun? Pooh rolling around in a tub full of honey. It isn't without issues, but the overall experience is cerebral. There's a level of maneuverability that becomes essential for success - a symbiotic relationship that grows between you, your bike, and rider as you fail over and over again. It's figuring out what needs to be done to get through a tricky section, and actually being able to do it consistently.

There are moments:

Flying through the air on a dirt bike at full speed, gliding smoothly over a ramp to accelerate at just the right speed, narrowly avoiding instant death by eeking out one final backflip just before landing on the other side of a gap otherwise insurmountable. Climbing up nearly vertical walls, and hopping across elevated platforms above a pit with no floor from a stopped position. Loop-de-looping into (and out of) a loop-de-loop of loop-de-loops.

It's magic, and what makes Trials Evolution worth every minute of agonizing failure.

A couple of final notes:

Some of the menus are confusing and don't always behave as expected. I was disappointed by the lack of an option to restore my bike's colours to factory defaults for instance. Other things like customizing your bike's individual parts appear inaccesible if you're playing with a controller (you can use a mouse to click on parts displaying a wrench icon to access these sub-menus). In a sense it doesn't feel like the project was fully presented as a product for PC users but rather a quick port.

Part and parcel with the above point, setting up a multiplayer game doesn't need to be this silly. Not only are you navigating in-game menus, you're also fumbling between overlays!

Texture pop-in is as bad in this game as it was for Halo 2 (xbox) at launch. Just about every stage suffers from it (especially at the start of races) in addition to the occasional slowdown. Pretend the slowdown is (intentional) dramatic presentation and you're golden.

The music is in your face and obnoxious: Who commissioned a rap about how badass playing a game about dirt biking is? Some might like it but I turned the music volume almost completely down after about 9 hours of play time - my brain just couldn't take it anymore.

The developers appear to be fairly open to patching the game so hopefully some of the kinks are worked out in due course.

Bottomline: I'm in no position to tell you how to spend your money, but if I'm coming over and you've got Trials Evolution, I'm playing.

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