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Urban Trial Freestyle review

This dirt-cheap dirt bike game is like Excitebike after a physics lesson

The wildly popular Trials series hasn't yet bunny-hopped to a Nintendo system, but RedLynx's succession of physics-led dirt bike platformers are so clearly the model for Urban Trial Freestyle it's hard not to draw parallels. It would be like not comparing Dolly The Sheep to Dolly The Sheep.

Fortunately, this rip-off, however shameless, finds a natural home on 3DS. The aim is simple: it's all about navigating a left-to-right obstacle course packed with speeding trains, rotted planks and near vertical climbs. Accelerating and breaking are your only options. To clear hazards, you'll bounce on suspension and shift ragdoll riders back and forth.

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With star rankings and online leaderboards, courses are designed to be played and re-played. This bite-sized approach to playability is perfect for on-the-go gamers. Got some downtime? Crack that 3DS lid and go for a one-minute High Score run. Tumbling off your bike and flailing around like one of Jim Henson's Muppets is par for the course, but having instantaneous restarts only a Y-button-press away contributes to a purposeful pick-up-and-play style.

Tracks are split two ways: Time Trial and Stunt Run. Although a simple sprint to the finish, the former has a definite knack to it. Speed is important, but go too fast up a ramp and you'll waste valuable seconds lingering in the air; get your rear wheel on the floor and gun it, but lean too far back and you risk toppling on your leathers. Shaving milliseconds off your time is addictive because it's easier to restart than quit.

Bike Curious

The second mode, Stunt Run, is more fully featured. Finish time matters, but it also takes into account how many times you crashed and what stunts you pulled. The latter are recorded by hovering markers that judge your speed, height, or flip rotation as you barrel through them, but they sometimes conflict with course design: a speed challenge right before a low-hanging pipe, for instance, sends you careering headfirst into it. Generous checkpoints at least let you learn tracks by increments.

Sadly, with just 24 of them, each a minute long, there's little learning all told, even if they are filled with moving parts and hidden details. Money pick-ups enable you to purchase hats, gloves, boots and helmets for your rider, as well as new engines, tyres and frames for that hunk of metal he's plonked on, but once you've five-starred a track (which isn't hard) there's nothing drawing you back.

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Still, it's fun while it lasts. Gritty courses, ranging from sewers to graffiti-tagged ghettos to tetanus-infested industrial districts, exploit 3D well, with roads stretching to the horizon. One hazard sees you time passes through metal fans as blades revolve in and out of the screen.

The best obstacles are dynamic: massive stone blocks drop on see-saws to send you hurtling through the air, loops cut away mid-rotation and, at one point, a rusty train crashes into view and doubles as a ramp. Some are less well timed: a car flipping towards you from off screen could only be avoided by someone with the gift of future sight.

Had it lasted longer, Urban Trials Freestyle would have bagged a better score. As it stands, you're looking at a game fit for little more than a rainy afternoon.


3 comments so far...
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  1. TheVentilator Saturday 17th Aug 2013 at 09:56

    I own this on both PS3 and VITA, and both looks much better. PS3 version have some serious overkill 3D action on the levels unlike any other version.(Check them on Youtube) I also own both Trials on Xbox 360, so i got them all. The advantage of owning all consoles. :) But yes, this game is a blatant Trials rip-off, but much better on PS3 than VITA nd 3DS.
    Trials Evolution is the best of them all, but its fun to play both series thou.

  2. bigterence Saturday 17th Aug 2013 at 10:58

    3ds is the name of the game. I could not care less about other consoles.This site is for Nintendo products.Blatant advertising of other consoles is not welcome.

  3. Argenthor Saturday 17th Aug 2013 at 22:50

    3ds is the name of the game. I could not care less about other consoles.This site is for Nintendo products.Blatant advertising of other consoles is not welcome.

    Try not to let your own preference for consoles lead you to just dismiss the views of others. There is nothing wrong with the guy stating his opinion on the other versions. Or other consoles for that matter.

    Bear in mind that just because it's a Nintendo website, it doesn't mean you can't be open minded!

    From the tone of the review, it seems like there are probably games like this out there that are more fully fleshed out (like Trials?).

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