I have always stayed clear of the Trials games, not because I don’t like them, but because I have never been any good at them. In some way, having to pay for something that I know, just 3 hours in, I will be falling all over the place, doesn’t appeal to me that much. I remember having a really good time playing Trials Evolution at a Eurogamer event, until someone came over and told us off for not playing the game that they were there to promote. But, when I saw Frontiers for free on the app store, I couldn’t help but be a little interested. Not only could I give it a good go without having to pay money for the privilege, but I could also play it on a nice little screen, protected from prying eyes, that may have otherwise seen how noobish I was being.
There is a comedic undertone in Frontiers that I really like. It is difficult for a game to be really funny and indeed, most of the time comedy falls flat on its face. But Trails provides us with a little humor here and there that helped keep a little grim on my face. The basic premise is a great western adventure, not too far removed from Mr John Wayne himself, but you will be riding bikes across the planes rather than horses. After a few initial easy runs, in which you find your feet, you are involved in an accident. Fortunately for you, there is a town close by with a population that is more than willing to nurse the fallen rider back to health. It is in this town that you will receive your quests from the witty townsfolk, as well as upgrade your bike in the garage and pay for items using the online shop.
For those familiar with Trials games, the game play has not changed too much. You play as an unnamed biker who must navigate a very unsafe course to reach the other side. With only forward, backwards, tilt left and tilt right for controls, the game’s easy to pick up. As you go through the course you will have to make sure that you maintain balance and the right line when you come down off a jump, otherwise you will soon find yourself with a face full of dirt. Each track does a good job of easing you in and making sure that you know what you’re doing before the game throws up another one. With the missions making you go back to old tracks, you can get a feel for each of the courses making it easier to do more complex manoeuvres that you would not have known to do the first time you tackled the track. The missions themselves are nice and varied and, although they may be a little samey at times, you can’t exactly feel that bad when they keep throwing more tracks and mechanics for you to try out. Like any game that involves cars or bikes, a big part of Frontiers is upgrading your vehicle. Parts can be collected from completing in races and these will significantly reduce the cost of any upgrades. You will have to wait real time for the upgrades to be complete, but you can still play during this time, and let’s face it, they have to find a way to add in micro-transactions somewhere, right?
So on to the matter of micro-transactions. With pretty much every free game on the app store, we expect some form of transaction. We can’t really mark down a free game for having them, but it is defiantly in the execution that we have to decide whether the game is justified or simply taking the piss (Dungeon Keeper). The paid for part of this game comes in the form of gems. These gems can be used to buy more coins to help with upgrades or the usual nonsense of making the upgrades go faster and unlocking more parts at a quicker rate. The best part about the whole thing is that there is no need to pay for anything in order to play the game to the fullest. I have been playing for a good few hours now and haven’t found the need or urge to pay for anything. In fact the only time that I thought of parting with some cash was for a limited edition offer that I though was quite reasonable. In that way the game handles micro-transactions perfectly, at no point does it force you to pay to continue, but maybe after a few good hours of play, you won’t feel too obliged to hand over some cash for the great time you have had.
As an introduction onto the handheld scene, trials does a very good job of providing its console level of polish to the much smaller device. I am very please with the fact that they decided to make it free to play, as I have to admit that I would most likely not have picked this game up if it came with a price tag. I like the fact that it is not trying to put me off actually playing the game, because of the notorious difficulty of the series, and I am even tempted to put money into it to show that now I have had a chance to play it, I think that it is really worth a couple hard earned pounds. If you are a fan of the console versions then you will like this game and if you, like me, have never got into it before, you will probably find that the simple controls and light hearted nature of the story is a strong pull and a great introduction to the franchise. I have heard that they are bringing out a new game for the next-gen consoles and, due to this, I am very much looking forward to giving that a go. And if that doesn’t sing the game’s praises, I don’t know what will.