Trials finally makes it to a Nintendo platform and thankfully it’s a good one.
The Trials series was a blast long before Ubisoft purchased developer RedLynx. The blend of creative level design with the freedom of the controls makes for a thrilling experience. However, for better or worse, it’s never made it onto a Nintendo platform before, at least aside from the similar-in-spirit WiiWare game MotoHeroz. Fortunately, Trials Rising is a great showcase of all that makes Trials great, with its only stumbles being some technical hiccups in handheld mode and a reliance on an online connection.
For newcomers to bike-riding in Trials, it’s a delirious, physics-based side-scrolling game where you control a reckless motorbike rider who can accelerate and shift their weight. Your goal is to go as fast as possible while avoiding crashes, though often those crashes are comical because of the ragdoll physics. The sense of humor is generally light and fun. RedLynx historically really loves squirrels and hides them in the levels. The series is also known for having an extensive track editor and a vibrant array of user-created levels. While the database isn’t filled yet in Rising, the sampling at launch is fun and should only get more inventive. If this all sounds like a lot, don’t worry: an evolving optional tutorial helps catch new players up to speed, which is especially helpful since Switch-only owners might have never played the series before.
If you have played Trials before, the biggest addition is in the structure and progression. Levels are split across different leagues on a world map, with each league culminating in a Stadium Final, where you directly race against numerous computer players. The levels often delight, with clever structures and numerous surprises. The scenery is varied and detailed, though some backgrounds are weirdly obfuscated by fog. Still, those visual problems don’t muck up the glory of the tracks. Even when you beat those enjoyable levels, there might be reason to revisit them in the form of Contracts, which are bonus challenges ranging from beating a level in a specific amount of time or doing so with a limited number of bails. It’s not an earth-shattering addition, but it does enrich the incentive to get better times and try levels again.
Those Contracts also feed into the customization options, where you accrue various items including bike parts and stickers you can put on the bikes. Apparently there are more than 2000 stickers, which is cool but also very overwhelming. It was cool getting new parts for my bike or outfits for my character, but the stickers were complete overkill. This is also tied into some loot boxes that optionally cost money but ultimately don’t affect the experience much. However, since all this customization is found in the loot boxes, a ton of which are earned through regular play, you can only access these boxes while connected online. A few quirky bikes are similarly locked behind a high amount of in-game currency that can be bought with real money. And the two bikes can only be accessed while connected online.
In general, Trials Rising is a very online experience—you lose a lot when offline. You can still play through the built-in levels, but you miss out on elements like customization as well as online seasons and leaderboards. It plays antithetical to the idea of the Switch being so portable. Even worse, the game runs into framerate issues when played portably. I didn’t run into consistent issues, but it happened often enough to make me vastly prefer playing the game docked, and I generally prefer handheld. Thankfully when docked, it ran totally fine.
Rising has some fun local and online multiplayer, though. Party Mode is a solid and goofy local mode while the new Challenger Mode is great for online racing where you race three opponents in a row for a special loot box. A deliriously silly co-op option is also new. The tandem bike has two players control a bike together, with an added boost when both are jamming on the accelerator.
Even with a few issues, Trials Rising is an excellent experience on Switch, filled with a slew of creative levels and a lot of reasons to replay and tweak your experience. Sure, the version on Switch might not be as pretty as other versions, but it’s just as playable, aside from a few handheld framerate problems. Steady your hand and get to navigating the peaks and valleys of the world of Trials. Just make sure you’re connected online.