By Josh Speer / August 1st, 2013
|Title: Urban Trial Freestyle
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Developer: Tate Interactive
Release Date: June 27th, 2013
Genre: Action, Racing
Platforms: 3DS, Vita, PS3
Age Rating: E
Let me start with an honest statement – I do not usually like or play racing games. I generally find them boring, unless they involve red shells and mushrooms. Thus it was with some trepidation that I accepted the opportunity to review Urban Trial Freestyle. But, always game for a challenge, I accepted and decided to give this eShop stunt game a shot, with surprising results.
The first thing that occurred to me upon booting up the game was “This looks a LOT like that game from the PAX Omegathon last year!” The game in question was Trials: Evolution, and after playing Urban Trial Freestyle for 5 minutes, I was convinced it was from the same series. The mental checklist was the following : Both have insane, gravity defying stunts? Check. Both have a grungy, hardcore style that is both appealing and ridiculous? Check. Both involve instant death for failed stunts? Check. Turns out, though, that Urban Trial Freestyle isn’t from the Trials series, but rather is a game influenced by the style and gameplay of that series. As it turns out, that is a very good thing.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and if that’s the case, then Trials: Evolution should feel very well loved. Urban Trial Freestyle is very similar to Trials: Evolution, at least from a cursory glance. Keep in mind, I never actually played Trials: Evolution, but I saw enough of it at PAX, nearly a full hour and half of gameplay, to accurately compare the two. However, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that Urban Trial Freestyle is merely a cheap knock off, cause it isn’t.
Urban Trial Freestyle is a racing game that forces the player to push physics to the limit in order to perform crazy stunts. Controls are very simple and easy to learn. You accelerate with the A button, reverse with Y and brake with B. Besides these key controls, there is one more you need to learn very quickly. Balance is controlled with the left joystick, and this is absolutely vital. As you start gaining more and more speed, your motorcycle has a tendency to flip upwards, and only by tilting the joystick in the opposite direction can you keep yourself grounded. This tactic is also important when doing the much more complex maneuvers, such as loop de loops or death defying jumps off ramps. Luckily, the game also employs checkpoints, so you can restart once you (inevitably) fall to your death.
Lest you think these stunts are just window dressing, there is a grade system in place. By doing complex stunts well, you are rewarded with points that translate into a star rating at the end of each stage. This ranges from 1-5, with 5 stars being rewarded for near perfect performances. By earning at least a 3 star average on each set of four stages, you will unlock the next set. In total, there are 5 sets of stages, a grand total of 20 in all. This might seem small, but each group of stages gets progressively more challenging and dangerous. The first set, called Downtown, is FAR easier than later sets, such as the Train Depot. Adding to the replay value is the fact that every single stage can be played 2 different ways – Stunt and Time Attack. Stunt is more focused on doing insane stunts, and doing them well, while avoiding any crashes. Time Attack is all about speed, as you endeavor to get to the finish line as fast as humanly possible. If you try to beat your record, you also race against your ghost, which is a hell of a challenge. Though I initially played through each set of stages on Stunt Mode, I actually found Time Attack to be easier to earn stars on. This is important, since stars unlock more than just stages.
Stars can also unlock new bikes for you to race. You start with a relative clunker, but by getting 4 star ratings on each set of levels, you can unlock several different models, with varying attributes. Another customization option is the ability to buy new parts for your bike and new clothes for your character by collecting gold in levels. You’ll find bags of loot lying in plain sight, as well as deviously hidden away. The game really does challenge you to not explore levels in a linear fashion, since doing so yields lesser results. For example, one stage may have you racing up a steep incline that you can’t quite get over. You think you’re stuck, until you fall back down and crash through the floor with enough force to unlock a new path that takes you forward. This sort of trick is utilized often in later levels, and many of them are much more devious. There are pistons that push you forward, collapsible tracks, and moving vehicles you need to launch off of. The braver you are, the more good stuff you get.
After you beat all 20 levels, you may be wondering if there is anything else to do. The answer to that question would be a resounding yes. If you are able to get the coveted 5 star rating on a set of levels, you unlock a corresponding challenge level. I spent about 3 hours playing through the game to review it, and in that time I only unlocked one of the challenge levels. Let me tell you, if the one I played is any indication, they are brutal. The one I tried involved tilting your 3DS to alter the center of gravity for your bike, all while accelerating to the finish. Suffice to say, I was horrible at it, and ended up drifting about like a drunk cosmonaut, bashing into walls and killing myself. Some might find this fun, but I was a little frustrated by it.
Another feature sure to increase the replay value is the track editor. You can essentially create your own custom courses, using any object you can find in the 20 levels. There is an absolute ton of items to pick from here. You can also increase object size, and tether them in midair to make insane stunts. You are also allowed to move around the checkpoints to make the difficulty easier or harder accordingly. The only downside to this mode is that you can’t share any of your custom levels with friends. Though I was able to power through the game in a relatively short period of time, this feature could increase the replay value exponentially. If that wasn’t enough, Urban Trial Freestyle also connects to the Nintendo Network once you start it, allowing you to compete against the high scores of others. If you have any sort of competitive spirit, this will urge you to play constantly to retain your coveted spot.
Graphically, the game is pretty good. Environments are well rendered for the most part, and you explore a variety of environments. Many tend to be littered with lots of refuse you can boost off of, giving the game an almost post-apocalyptic vibe. The only time I got frustrated with the graphics was when I occasionally got my rider stuck between objects. This didn’t happen often, but it was annoying when it did. The only good thing about it was that the game lets you manually warp to the last checkpoint by pressing X. The sound in the game was less impressive. There is really only a couple of tracks in the game, and they are all simplistic and overshadowed by the actual gameplay. The music and effects do their job of keeping you in the game, but aren’t really memorable. The engine sound effects do, however, have a satisfying purr and growl to lend the game some real bite.
So now you’re probably wondering – what’s the consensus? Surprisingly, pretty great. I found myself enjoying every moment of gameplay, from the frustrating crashes to the exhilarating highs whenever I successfully did a nearly impossible stunt. For an eShop game, I feel Urban Trial Freestyle is more than worth the $6.99 asking price. It has a lot to offer to fans of racing games and has crazy stunts for everyone else. Though there is really no plot or compelling motivation behind the scenes, I personally felt it didn’t need it. The game is what it is. As much as I enjoyed it, especially considering I don’t normally like racing games, I would heartily recommend this game to anyone with a 3DS. It’s definitely one of the better games to come out for the eShop in the past couple months, and well worth your time.
Review copy supplied by publisher. This review is only for the 3DS version of the game.
3DSRacingStuntTate MultimediaUrban Trial Freestyle