Contributed by CJ
Urban Trial Freestyle has been somewhat of an enigma to me. Perhaps not the sort of game I’d pick up of my own accord, but after playing Tate Multimedia’s 3DS e-shop release, such an instinct seems one of increasing folly.
What followed was a trail of memories from years gone by, devastating visions for the start of a much-loved prime time BBC TV show, a voyage into the unknown, and then something really rather exhilarating.
As the game booted up my first thought was to the Xbox 360’s Trials HD, a game which I haven’t played, but recall D-Toid show’s Tara Long being a massive fan of. Yet firing up the game brought back visions of Commodore 64 classic Kickstart 2, and of just how much time I put into the addictive little bugger back in the day.
In particular I’m thinking of the theme music playing throughout the levels, which was akin to some kind of aural heroin, and even now it’s boinging through my mind. I had to leap to YouTube to find it again.
Bip. Bip. Bip. Doodle doodle doop doop doo doo doo.
Urban Trial Freestyle takes such reflections and shows just how spoiled we are as modern day gamers. Not in a bad way at all, but such contrast to days gone by exposes just how much we’re spoiled by so many lush flicks and flourishes that it’s easy to take for granted the sheer nuance and craftsmanship we have before us within their modern day equivalents.
Each level consists of racing a motorcycle across the various jumps, ramps and hazards that are in your way. Some of those evolve as you ride, sproinking out Mousetrap style and instantly affecting the oncoming seconds. Think! Think! You’re not only accelerating and breaking with the bike, but emphasizing a shove on the handlebars, a lean back to shift your weight towards the back of the bike, all to best scale the wonky terrain before you and whatever’s chucked your way in the meantime.
At first I was quite the cautious monkey, gingerly getting used to the above ingredients, stirring the spoon of mastery and trying to bake a .. finish .. cake. Probably something with bananas in it. I did eventually, in a time that even the most charitable of scholar would best describe as abysmal.
Thing is, with never a conscious thought, I clicked to replay the level again – and absolutely hammered through it. Muscle memory kicked in, I was a world of lean and push, a wizard of speed and brakes, this sparkling fizz of a machine battering past the finish line.
It could be said that such an instant click and replay could have been because I was laying in bed, perhaps a bit knackered, but after that second run through the debut level, all the thoughts piled on like a scrum, each humming, singing, exclaiming a hearty “COR!”. My heart rate was a world of thumpa-a-dumpa-dump, adrenalin going all whoosh, like. I was in.
In such moments there’s a punch of “howthebloodyhelldidIdothat?”, akin to the delicious kick I’ve felt with Hotline Miami. Almost as if a part of me separated out and began shouting it in the immediate thereafter.
Breathe. Next course, yes? Oh yes!
The second level contained new quirks and challenges, and I admit to dying so many times I had visions of a pre-opening credits sequence to the BBC’s prime time medical drama, ‘Casualty’.
I pictured Charlie, I think he’s called Charlie – a man with silver hair and a distinct Muppet-like look to him – gurning across the hospital. A scream had sounded. Muppetty concern, cast off-camera.
Charlie then runs to Accident & Emergency, where a number of ambulances were dumping hundreds of bikers. These were all the people I’d just nobbled, usually in all manner of neck or back breaking ways – whilst attempting to get through that last level.
The game was laughing at me, yet throwing me looks, applying red lipstick, flashing a bit of stockinged thigh. Tart.
This has since become the chemical equation for my time with the game. Play a level, be a bit dodgy at it, learn new skills, and eventually get over the finish line. Crack into it again and potentially do much, much better, yet at times snarl my teeth, throw myself a barbed insult – and inevitably play again.
Hence, the crux of the matter of the matter is this – I may not have thought Urban Trials Freestyle was for me, but it is. It may wear its fancy leathers and snarly motorbike at the forefront, pitching itself as a racing game, but it’s as much a puzzle game as a Lumines or Tetris. The falling of the blocks are the racing of the cycle, add in the physics, quirks, nuance, addiction. A certain frustration that gums and dribbles at the ankles like a Jack Russell with no teeth, but when you pet the blighter it wags its tail and wuffs in a delightfully Disney-like way.
I’ve found myself primarily playing it at night before bed. I can imagine if you have a train journey to work, a break for lunch, or a few minutes before heading out, that one more of factors that’s tickled me silly will be an itch of your very own. Whether that be the level that’s currently screaming at you, or proving you are Masterful Barry McGladitorial Goldenballs and bettering the score of a level you’ve completed previously. Or not. One more go? Maybe. Just maybe.
+ Far more addictive than you might imagine.
+ Definite ‘One More Go’ feel.
- Your character looks like a Pepperami that’s been shopping in Primark.
Ponderliciously, I reckon Urban Trial Freestyle is a bit of a slow burner. A title you’ll find yourself playing more often than you might think, and as such getting ever more charmed by it. As such consider this rating a solid foundation for now, with a knowing nod that such a mark may well climb further still, depending on how much you click with it.
Give it a go. I think you may well find yourself as surprised as I am.