They could have called “Trials Fusion,” now available for the PS4, “Crash” because that’s what you’ll do over and over and over again. Like a lot of precision-based racing games and simulators, “Trials Fusion” appeals to gamers who are extremely patient. The marketing materials may give the impression that this is a thrill-a-minute fun ride like “SSX” on a bike and the game does have moments of trick-performing glee against a backdrop of cleverly-designed insanity but it’s also just TOUGH. It took me awhile to get accustomed to just the right amount of gas on steep hills, just the right amount of leaning forward to accelerate, just the right amount of leaning back to catch my balance, and so on and so on. Over- or under-correcting your lean after a jump? Crash. Take a hill too slow? Crash (as you roll back). Take a hill too fast? You’ll mis-time the jump and, wait for it, “Crash.” If you’re easily frustrated, play a different game. However, if you’re willing to commit to “Trials Fusion,” it has a lot to offer, including remarkably well-designed courses that come with the purchase price along with the promise of many more with level editors open to the public and a community of fans willing to share their designs (a la “Little Big Planet” and “Little Big Planet Karting,” still one of the best PlayStation racing games in recent memory).
The set-up for “Trials Fusion” is deceptively simple. “Look! A bike game! This will be fun!,” I said to my son. He got bored with all my crashing too. It’s essentially a motorbike platforming game set in the future with all the slick gameplay, graphics, and mechanics that implies. It starts off simple enough in the Career mode, with a few levels that introduce you to the basics of hitting the Gas (R2) and Brake (L2) and how your success or failure is likely to be based on how much you lean forward or back on the incline and/or landing. You zoom through levels with exploding, futuristic backdrops, and then the developers start upping the intensity, throwing in tracks that require flips or jumps (which means pulling back so your front wheel goes up and then trying to time pushing forward in a feat of precision that will drive many gamers up the proverbial wall). Like a lot of racing games, the progression is straightforward—complete one level, get to the next. And completion is pretty much dependent on memorization. You get countless retries to find the exact spot you need to jump, how steeply you can take a hill, etc. Good luck.
Like a lot of great modern racing games, the career progression is only the beginning. There are unlocks that can give you customization for your character, leaderboards for each level, a multiplayer that can even be played locally, and, best of all, a course builder system that truly opens the world of “Trials Fusion” up in a way that the people at Sony have to love. Since the introduction of the PS4 last year, Sony has been pushing the social capabilities of the machine. It’s a system they want you to play with friends, whether it’s sharing the universe of “Need For Speed: Rivals” or uploading videos of your favorite moments from “Killzone: Shadow Fall”. And so the encouragement to not just race but design tracks to drive others to crash-driven insanity is right in the wheelhouse of this machine’s potential.
As for visuals, it looks beautiful on the PS4. At first, I was disappointed that it’s a relatively straightforward left-to-right track game but the developers play with it visually, starting levels by throwing you up into the air and on to the track or gently pushing the axis in another direction so it looks like you’re turning even as the game essentially pushes across the screen. And there’s often fun things going on in terms of video/audio, like an announcement of a gas leak moments before an explosion alters the track in front of you. And, of course, you crash.