The long running Trials series of games has finally hit mobile devices, and following an iOS release recently, Trials Frontier is now available for Android. If you’ve not played a Trials game before, they’re all based on the sport of motorcycle trials, where riders must take on difficult courses on a specially built bike. Trials Frontier is a fine introduction to the series, but it does come with a few mobile-only quirks which may irritate long-time fans of the games. Let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
Trials Frontier has a basic storyline to help guide you through the many races, which is something about you – a nameless motorcycle rider – helping to rebuild a frontier town, and save it from the clutches of various thugs. It’s more about giving the game some structure than engaging the player, but because it’s not complex enough to be a distraction, it’s easily ignored if you don’t have any interest.
Get the plot out of the way, and it’s time to saddle up. The game is a left/right scroller with 3D scenery, across which you must ride your bike. The tracks are very short, it usually takes less than a minute to complete them, and although you can do stunts on each one, they’re not always essential. Sometimes, the missions do involve completing a set number of flips, all of which are performed using the basic controls.
On the right of the screen are two direction buttons to deal with forward and reverse motion, while on the left, another two buttons control rotation. Accelerate up a slope, launch off the top, and hit either the forward or reverse key and you’ll spin round. Land correctly on two wheels and all will be fine, but it’s easy to misjudge how much air you’ll get and end up face down with the bike on top of you.
Each stage has various checkpoints, and you’re sent back to the last one each time you crash. On the standard courses this isn’t all that common, but when you race a villain, it happens a lot. These race levels are longer and much more difficult, to the point of being almost impossible on a basic bike, so you’ll need plenty of upgrades before you beat them.
To improve your ride, parts can be collected in the game, or purchased inside the virtual shop. You pay using coins and gems, which are awarded after each level, or acquired using in-app purchases. This is where Trials Frontier differs from other Trials games. The micro-transactions aren’t all that intrusive for the first dozen levels, and upgrading the bike is just slower without an injection of cash. Where they become a problem is with fuel.
You start with a full fuel tank, and it costs five units to start a race. The tank is refilled every time you level up, something which depends on experience points awarded after completing tasks and stages, but this method slows down considerably as the game progresses. Buying more fuel results in a mandatory waiting period of around 15 minutes, just like Real Racing 3. Paying real money eliminates this wait time.
The game is free to download and can be played for free if you have a lot of patience, but it’s obvious the developers want you to pay up, hence the rush to get you through the early levels. It’s always a shame when in-app purchases spoil a game, and while they’re not too intrusive in Trials Frontier, their presence is always in the background.
Is it worth paying up? That depends on how much you’re enjoying the game. It looks great, and it ran very smoothly on various Android phones, including the LG G3. Graphically, it’s very detailed and clean, with the tiny environments full of interesting things to spot. The rider and his bike are animated well, and his subsequent destruction at the end of each stage is amusing and unexpected. If you find yourself enthralled by Trials Frontier, it’ll be easy to splash out on some fuel and gems, but the game isn’t for everyone, and we found it difficult to work up much enthusiasm to continue playing, even before the timers became a nuisance. Still, it’s free to play, so there’s no risk involved in finding out if the game is for you or not.
There’s plenty of variety too, from completing the game itself, to challenging other riders online, and upgrading to new and improved bikes. If you like the Trials series, and don’t mind dealing with some in-app purchases, then you’ll love Trials Frontier.