Trials Rising may be conforming to the series’ usual style, as well as the law of videogame subtitles (Trials Origins and Trials Legends have yet to be announced) but it is adding one wonderful new feature: tandem motorbike muckabouts. In this local two-player mode, each player controls half the throttle, and each makes up half the weight on the bike. Like any Trials game, you can still leap from the seat at any moment, but doing so in tandem mode leaves your co-biker in the lurch, struggling to correct the vehicle’s trajectory in midair. It’s wonderful. I played it at E3 and it turned me into a giddy ragdoll.
Aside from this, Rising is sticking to Trials traditions. New levels have you rolling on the ‘coasters and rides of a theme park, exploring the blackened and abandoned housing of Pripyat, and trundling past the bubbling pools of Yellowstone Park, where some platforms are hidden just under the surface of sulphuric water. They are stages full of daft pyrotechnics, helicopters, and end-of-level slapstick. At the end of the Chernobyl stage, for instance, your rider rolls into the back of a rooftop sign, whereupon a giant Cyrillic R falls on top of them, crushing them like a sad pea. Classic Trials silliness.
Customisation is still a big part of bike balancing. Bits of costume, helmets, jackets and so on are doled out after each stage. Horse heads, leather jackets, little fox bobbleheads. They’re all as silly as you’d expect. I don’t know how liberal Redlynx are going to be with these bits of kit, however, or if the split currency of Trials Fusion is making a return. But I doubt Ubi would change this side of things up too much.
But it’s the Tandem mode that has me giggling during my demo. I’m joined by a Redlynx artist, who’s soon hugging me on the bike, helping me fling the vehicle across gaps in mountainous terrain. At random moments he or I will bail out, leaving the other to ride on alone atop a bike that is simply too long and off-kilter for a single person. At one point, I leap off the dirtbike only to fall directly in its path and my co-rider struggles to hobble the machine over my twitching body. At another point, we crash and both our bodies flump into the ground together, forming an awkward, vaguely sexual pile of limbs. It’s great.
But the Tandem mode is sadly restricted to local multiplayer, I’m told. The lag of playing online would make later levels nigh-impossible, says my motorpal, because of the precise timing you’d need to pull off precision manoeuvres.
Those precise moves are important. At Ubisoft’s E3 conference the studio made a big deal of making this one a little easier for beginners to learn the more advanced tricks. If you’re only a Trials dabbler, like me, you may not even be aware of the subtle, speedy movements your thumbs need to make to get the most out of your bike’s bouncing. A bunny hop is not as simple as pressing a button, but requires sharp movements back and forth, using the in-game physics to “simulate” a hop. Overcoming a single obstacle made of breeze blocks can be harder than a course full of perilous ramps. So it makes sense to include some lessons that can make it easier to learn such techniques.
I can see these lessons now. How to bunny hop. How to climb steep hills. How to navigate your tandem motorbike over the twitching corpse of your former partner with only 50% throttle.
Judging by the laughs I had during the demo, that’s a tutorial I’d happily take.