By Kieron Gillen on March 27th, 2008 at 7:24 pm.
Okay, we blogged about it yesterday before we had a chance to actually play it. Now, I have and can only concur with the excited people in the comments threads. This is brilliant, and a perfect example of how a modern approach can rejuvenate even the most venerable of arcade games. But before I talk about that, something about my bladder.
Now, I tend to go and piss a lot. Not a weak-bladder in a leaking urine on my seat kind of way, but in the pub, I wander toilet-wards more often than most. Now, crawling out of bed at about one – I was up until five, as is a freelancer’s wont – I started playing Trials 2 again. Despite consuming the usual endless cups of tea that Jim provides, I don’t leave my seat – or, indeed, my dressing gown – for three hours. At which point I realise I probably should do some work. And get dressed. And eat. And – hey! – probably do something about this sense of fullness in my abdomen. It’s that compulsive.
(As an aside, ignoring of bodily needs is something which characterises genuinely great games for me. Most recently, Armageddon Empires has a similar effect. I live in fear that one day a game’s going to arrive that’s so brilliant that I’ll be trapped, and Jim will wander down in the morning to find me lying dead in my room, body horribly ruptured from gut-pressure.)
Anyway – RedLynx Trials 2: Second Edition scores high in aceosity.
It’s – as I said – a neat example of how modern tech and a focused design can do for an old-boy. The basic game has been around since eight-bit days – you as the bike, moving across an obstacle course. Rather than true simulator-style control, the game moves on a single plane. Up and down accelerate and break. Left and right moves your weight forward and back. Bar the reset controls, that’s it. Which is fine, because that’s all it needs. The absolute precision is absolutely the point; when you fuck up, there’s the element of “How on earth did I do that wrong”.
Obvious changes to the formula are the embracing of modern technology – as you can see, it looks great. More relevantly, it lobs in a load of real-time physics, which both elevates the control of your bike and the resulting bone-crashing impacts. Expect your first fifteen minutes to result in the most real-physics-powered laughs since Sumotori Dreams. Alec, over at our place for an RPS-lunch and Munchkin game, ended up playing with it in turns, laughing at each others constant errors. And, really, there’s nothing but constant errors when you play.
(One day someone will actually apply Mortal Kombat’s style gore to something like this, at which point I will shake a designer manfully by the hand)
Which kind of shines a light on one of the pieces of really precise, genuinely brilliant design. The problem with this sort of game is that, inevitably, it’s a game of trial and error. A slight loss of balance, head meets floor and you’re back to the last checkpoint on the course (Actually, in passing, they place Checkpoints particularly well too). Hammer back-space, and you’re instantly back in the world. And the instantly is important – there’s many arcade games which put a delay between the failure and the start. For something like – to choose the first example which comes to mind, even if it’s console one – Stuntman: Ignition, it’s just as trial/restart, but the loading pause breaks the rhythm. Not so here. In tricky bits, that hammering becomes part of your rhythm of play rather than a break of it.
Or, in short, it’s an arcade game. You’re playing it to play it, and anything that stops that reduces it.
(That’s probably too precise reason, but I’m kind of hoping some developer’s reading and will go “Oh yeah!” and remove anything which stops people playing.)
Oh, obvious one: The courses are awesome. Some are really basic. Others are ludicrously complicated, with loops, back flips and similar. Hell, there’s even courses where rather than making the levels static, they make it dynamic. So you end up sending things rolling and… oh, here’s a user video to show some of it off.
Actually, the user video leads us to another of its stronger points. That is, how it works with its users. Following on from Audiosurf, this is really reintroducing high-scores to PC gaming, by embracing the whole internet age. Everyone who buys the game has a username. All of the 40 levels has its own leaderboard, logging everyone in the world’s best score (Which is based on time, number of errors, tricks and similar. I think). Which is great, except it goes further. Beside everyone’s score, there’s a link you can press which immediately shows you a replay of their run, with the key-presses visible in the bottom right. This allows you to i) Admire the crazy skills of those ultra-players immediately ii) learn from them, so acting as an ever-expanding tutorial. More so, there’s another button which drops them into your course as a ghost for you to compete against. I stress, this isn’t just the top players. This is everyone in the world. The main problem is that wihle you can form a team, and narrow down the full list to anyone who joins your team, there’s no separate friendslist function. In other words, as far as I can make out, it’s really tricky for people outside the team to play a rivalry. Which is something of a shame.
Bar that, this is awesome. Basically.
(In fact, so awesome that I wonder how its servers are going to hold off when this inevitably takes off more than it has already)
Oh – and there’s unlockable achievements too. Perhaps inevitably, the only ones I have are involving killing and generally mutilating my driver. The poor guy.
That’s enough rambling for now. Hopefully this is enough to make you try it, as it’s one of the most infuriating and brilliant arcade games of the year so far. You can download it from here, and then unlock the full version for twenty dollars if it takes your fancy. I’m not sure if it’s in the trial version, but Where’s the Ground is the most obviously spectacular of the Easy-graded courses.
Oh – and I’ve made a RPS team. If you have a username, feel free to join and laugh at my incompetence. The Team name is RPS and the password to get in is also RPS. I’m simple like that.