If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Trials Fusion nearly broke me. I crashed a grand total of 240 times on one level in the penultimate area before I shut off my PlayStation 4 in frustration. I had to go find my center, my imaginary land of cute bunnies and bright yellow daffodils. I came back hours later, beat the level after crashing a mere 100 times, and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I can think of no better way to encapsulate Trials Fusion than in that single, victorious moment.
Series fans know what to expect at this point—physics-based platforming on unwieldy motorcycles while chaos surrounds the player. The Trials formula still proves novel due to its emphasis on careful precision over breakneck speed. That precision also contributes to Trials Fusion's difficulty, which feels both gradual and insane. I had little trouble with the easy and medium levels, and the game does a commendable job of easing newcomers into the Trials experience with its first few areas in Career mode. Then the game introduces hard levels and the tears pour forth.
At that point, inching my way to every single checkpoint felt like a small miracle. The severe difficulty spike may scare some players away, and the reliance on medals to unlock new areas limits content for those not skilled enough to perform well on each track. But that's the Trials experience, through and through.
Trials Fusion toes the line between challenge and frustration. Many difficult games struggle to find that perfect balance between the two, and Trials Fusion succeeds more often than not. Much of that success stems from the game's mechanics. Because Trials is physics-based, there's an explanation behind every mistake, a solution for every problem. As much as I hate to admit it, every one of those 240 crashes on the aforementioned nightmare track were my fault. That didn't make it any less infuriating in the moment, but reflection leads to solace.
Trials Fusion avoids total despair with charm, namely the myriad of hilarious ways in which the rider meets his demise at the end of every track. There's nothing quite like riding to victory and then subsequently falling through a plate glass floor or into a series of explosive barrels. After spending hours with this game, I still chuckle at the end of each level.
Trials Fusion does introduce a brand new FMX system to the series, which utilizes the right analog stick to pull off awesome tricks... until the player crashes. Then the tricks aren't quite so awesome. In any event, tricks factor into special FMX levels in Career mode. Not only must the player finish the level in a timely fashion, but they must also accumulate a high score with a series of spectacular mid-air moves. The FMX levels were among my favorites, and I wish developer RedLynx had included more of them.
Luckily, I can look to the community for my FMX needs, at least in theory. Track Central acts as a hub for all community creations, in which creative types out there can construct devious tracks in the game's level editor and then
inflict them on share them with the rest of the world. As I review this game Track Central is a barren landscape, but I imagine that won't be the case when the game is officially released. The menu alone hints at the potential, with options for developer picks, difficulty levels, game types, and even friends' creations. Also currently unavailable is Tournament mode, which will allow players to compete with each other. For now there is only local multiplayer, which I found to be lacking. All competitors race on the same track, but the way the game deals with crashes results in situations in which the better racer ultimately loses.
Time would be better spent focusing on the game's many challenges, which will surely entice obsessive players. They range from executing particular tricks to discovering secret areas with bailouts, and some of the solutions are just crazy. Rounding out Trials Fusion is a handful of hidden collectibles and different outfits and motorcycles to unlock in the garage with money earned from Career mode. Sadly, the garage unlockables are purely cosmetic, but it's only one small part of a package filled to the brim with content.
Fans of the Trials series will likely enjoy Trials Fusion. Players who have yet to play a Trials game: Welcome to hell. Okay, maybe that's a tad extreme, but this is not a game for the faint of heart. Those willing to fight and endure will be rewarded a satisfying experience though, one in which the numerous deaths and crashes only add to the momentous victory as the player crosses the finish line.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PS4 version. Also available PC and Xbox One.