First of all, let us tackle the elephant in the room. Urban Trial Freestyle is going to get comparisons to XBLA darling Trials Evolution. Looking in from the outside, it comes across as one of those cheap iOS knock-off style games, that seemingly rip out a load of assets, change a few details, including the title, then release as a new game.
On the surface it looks like that, Gamestyle were very cynical when Urban Trial Freestyle was first announced, as were most it would seem. It wasn’t just the idea of this being a bit of a rip-off that there would have been issues with, it was thought that the precision controls needed for a Trials game wouldn’t work at all on the Vita, due to the lack of analogue triggers. So a cheap knock-off with bad controls was expected.
Oh how wrong we were! First of all, the only reason there is cynicism about the game, is that Trials HD and Evolution were groundbreaking titles, introducing a new genre. People don’t complain that FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer are similar, or that the are a ton of near identical FPS games. It has a similar look to Trials, because it is a Trials game. Simple as that.
It does lack many of the features Trials Evolution does, such as level building tools that make Little Big Planet look light on features. But it never claims to be more than it is. There are two ways to attack the game, one is in a pure time-trial mode and the other is in the form of various trick style challenges. It is in these challenges where Urban Trials Freestyle carves out its own selling point.
The idea of the trick challenges is that you attack each stage as you would a time trial, however points are given for meeting certain challenges at certain points of the course. Highest and furthest jumps, rotations off a jump, speed traps and precision landing are the order of the day. Points are given based on how well you do each of these and then totaled at the end. The higher the score, the closer you will get to a 5-Star rating.
Tracks will get harder as you progress, but the ability to upgrade your bike will help these tracks become more managable, allowing you to achieve faster times and better scores. You earn money by collecting cash sacks throughout a level, the collected cash is then used to upgrade bike parts. Each upgrade has a positive and negative effect on each of the three area on the bike, speed, acceleration and handling.
The most important part for a game like this, is in the controls and whilst here they aren’t as perfected as they are in Trials, they do work remarkably well and despite the lack of the pressure triggers from the 360 controller, you do feel in complete control of the bike at all times. It does take a little while to get used to and for veteran Trials fans, it may be a little hard to adjust, knowing that the techniques used in that game won’t translate here. However, courses have been designed to cope with the controls well.
What does work really well and does set Urban Trials Freestyle apart is how the leaderboards are integrated into levels. Especially during the trick runs. You will always be greeted with markers of rivals and the best in the world for each type of trick. So seeing that green marker as you soar off a ramp encourages you to want to better yourself.
It is that need to better yourself that gives this game its worth. Early levels will see you getting 5-Star ratings with ease, yet as you progress you’ll be posting up less challenging scores and times, seeing you go back and trying again and again and again. It certainly has that ‘one more try’ feel.
There is a fair amount of content within the game, with 40 levels across the various environments. Many of the levels are repeated though to cover both the trick and time versions of each. There is no content editor as seen in Trials Evolution, however that matters not. The content you do get to play through can be over quickly is you decide to just run through the once, but then that defeats the object of the game as a whole. it is designed for you to go back and better yourself as said before and being on the Vita, the course lengths are perfectly suited for that quick blast, or a prolonged session.
Urban Trial Freestyle is much more than a copycat cash-in. It is a fine game that can be bought for a bargain price (£7.99) and is plenty of fun to play. Hopefully it will receive support down the line and get some DLC. It isn’t a well rounded at Trials, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a good game. It is a fine addition to the Vita library and one that should be picked up instantly.