This could be the best game yet released on Xbox Live Arcade.

Quite a bold statement, but a fair one. Trials Evolution has got some pretty big motocross boots to fill, as the sequel to the much-loved Trials HD. Like its prequel, it’s a 2.5D game – the graphics are in bold and beautiful 3D, but the gameplay is two-dimensional – you don’t have to worry about steering your trail bike left or right, you just have to worry about the ramps, jumps, chasms, loops, fires etc etc. Is anyone here old enough to remember Kickstart 2 on the Spectrum? It’s kind of the great-great-grandson of that in terms of gameplay.

So it draws the player in with its apparent simplicity, but quickly it’s apparent that the physics engine is beautifully detailed and the levels are imaginitive and cunning. Careful, careful use of the throttle and brakes have to be combined with leaning the rider backwards of forwards to get to the end of each course. The first lesson comes when trying to pull away without leaning forwards – the bike can just leap out from under the rider.

Then it becomes obvious that using too much throttle leads to too much wasted time in the air over jumps – better to back off, get back on the ground quickly and start accelerating again. Then some ramps become so steep and tricky that the only way to take them is to slow down to a crawl and lean right forward… and so on and so on.

Completing the courses is one thing however, but if you have Xbox Live, this game will take your friends times – display their ghosts alongside your rider and rub your nose in their superior technique! It becomes a matter of honour to try and beat at least some of them – to figure out where they got those extra tenths of a second from. Any player’s replay can be downloaded and watched – and their control inputs are shown on the screen, down to every stick and trigger movement. Even for the best players in the world – all the secrets to their technique can be laid bare.

It’s quite possibly the most competitive game I’ve ever played – I’ve replayed levels 20 or 30 times in order to get close to, or beat times that my friends have set. It’s a super-addictive challenge, with the satisfaction of knowing that your times will be overlaid with theirs and they will have to try their best to beat your own efforts.

There’s also a great multiplayer mode – up to four players can compete on specialised tracks, or on the single player trials courses – again using ghosts. The matchmaking with random opponents works well and it is possible to invite friends, create private games etc. But the biggest change in Trials Evolution compared to its predecessor is the inclusion of a very powerful level editor. Like LittleBigPlanet, the same tools that the developers used to create levels have been included here for players to create courses, upload them and share them with the community.

There are two types of editor available – Lite and Pro. With the Pro editor it is possible to reprogram the fundamental rules of the games and create games in completely different genres. Some players have already created first person shooters, changed the game to a first person viewpoint, created shoot-em-ups, basketball games etc. And all these levels can be downloaded free. The game has just been launched – think of how much extra content is going to be made available. This game will surely have a very long lifespan.

And on top of that – it costs just 1,200 Microsoft Points (£10.20 if bought at rrp) – that is a stone cold bargain in light of how much fun there is to be had here. It’s an infuriating, addictive, original, simple, deep, lasting game that is also a development kit in its own right. As I said – best game on XBLA so far? Yes, I reckon.


Trials Evolution is out now on Xbox Live Marketplace