Trials Frontier is a new release from Ubisoft. A modern day Excitebike, TF makes a good impression quickly. On first opening the game, you jump right on to your motorcycle and immediately get a mini-tutorial on the controls and some time to practice. After this, you start taking missions from the townspeople. These can range from finding parts for people to collecting blueprints for new bikes to build. There is a kid who always wants you to do tricks, and a cartographer that needs help exploring. Each mission puts you on a track on your bike with different objectives to complete. Through these you earn experience points, coins, and occasionally other items.
After each completed level you get to spin the “loot wheel” to win parts. These parts and the coins you gather can be used to upgrade your bikes. Each level costs you fuel to play, which recharges very slowly, so when you are out you either wait or spend gems to fill back up. Of course, the gems are like in any other game. You can earn them in small amounts within the game, but any more than a handful would require an in-app purchase.
A Work of Art
The graphics are stellar just about everywhere you look. The typical convention for iOS games these days are menus or other areas which are separate from the main gameplay that just look beautiful, and mediocre-at-best gameplay graphics. TF turns that model on its head and then improves on it: the menus look well above average, and the in-game graphics are amazing. The levels are colorful and creative, with gorgeous backgrounds. Whether you’re out West, up in the hills and mountains or in a cave, you’ll be in awe of the visuals. The lighting and shading is great, and everywhere you look there are little details that are perfectly executed.
The sound is equally fantastic. There isn’t much music to speak of, but there are a few songs intertwined here and there, mostly playing in the background as you are moving around the town outside of the levels. The sound effects more than make up for the slight lack of music though. The bike sounds are perfect, and sounds like the murmur of a crowd with the occasional shout in the tavern or the tools in the garage make for the true western/gearhead experience (because that’s what we’re all looking for, right?) Even the notification sound is cool. When the app is not running and an upgrade finishes, you are alerted by a quick guitar riff followed by the sound of an impact wrench. Spot on.
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The controls are intuitive, but just difficult enough. Holding one of two arrows on the bottom right of the screen causes forward or reverse movement, while another two on the bottom left cause your rider to lean. This allows you to do wheelies, flips, or just angle your bike correctly for the terrain. You learn quickly that the back wheel of your bike is what you need to pay attention to in order to maintain traction and keep moving forward. But you also must coordinate your balance to do tricks, or just maneuver over obstacles without rolling the bike. Every once in a while, I would have a little bit of trouble hitting the correct lean button since they are so close together, but more often than not I had no issues.
Somebody Stop Me!
TF has managed to turn a fairly basic concept into an addictive game. You might wonder how riding a bike on a 2D track – when all you can really do is rotate forward or backward – can keep you coming back. Well, by adding several bikes, tons of different tracks, a unique system of gathering parts in order to purchase bike upgrades, new features that are steadily introduced as you progress, and all sorts of little missions, it has done just that. I found myself replaying the same level (that takes about 30 seconds to complete) again and again just to squeeze in every trick that I possibly could without crashing.
The gas system can be slightly prohibitive if you want to play all different levels, since you have to wait for it to recharge if you don’t want to buy and use gems. But there is good news: if you just restart the level and don’t accept your time and results, you can play it as many times as you like without using more gas.
Trials Frontier is flat out awesome. It’s the whole package, and gave me a hard time in my never-ending quest to try and find something to complain about. Whether you’re motivated by wanting to “beat” the game and unlock every bike, upgrade and track there is, or just enjoy yourself and mess around, this one is a must-have.