It’s difficult to think of any other significant video-games that were released in recent times that were similar to any of the Trials video-games. Fortunately, it seems like that might change with the release of Urban Trial Freestyle 2.
Don’t go expecting this sequel to be exactly the same as any of the Trials video-games though. Those that are old enough to have watched the lowbrow MTV TV show Jackass will know what to expect from Urban Trial Freestyle 2. The main goal here is to survive a series of levels found within areas by driving a motorcycle across various obstacles in the way of getting to the finish line.
Whilst the obvious connection between Jackass and this title is the blatant disregard for health and safety rules, to get the adrenaline pumping, it’s the very aesthetic of the title that brings to mind the adventures of Johnny Knoxville and his crew of daredevils. The character’s topless default costume is the very embodiment of the Jackass cast’s personal brand, who often preferred performing their stunts in style over using sensible safety equipment. Even the soundtrack seems like it wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Jackass. At least it’s comforting that this is but a virtual world and the various injuries the character suffers are not permanent. Given the context of a video-game it means that the theme of a lone daredevil attempting to pull off gravity defying stunts is actually very entertaining.
Each of the levels is full of elaborate obstacles that the character must deal with to get to the end. Albeit this proves rather tricky given the unpredictable physics engine that makes it somewhat difficult to prevent the character from dying in the most painful ways possible. At times it seems like the motorcycle has a mind of its own as it resists against the analog stick’s commands to keep it at an angle that will not result in the character breaking his spine yet again. Not even equipping purchased upgrades that improve the stats of any of the bikes owned makes it easier to feel in total control of them.
The nature of the levels also makes it difficult to prepare for what lies ahead which means usually falling prey to the many traps the first time. This trial and error approach wouldn’t be much of an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s necessary to get an average amount of stars in the Stunt or Time Attack mode, earned by doing well and not dying a lot in each level, across all levels for an area before being allowed to play the next area. Despite the fact that playing the levels is still fun, given the wacky nature of the title, it’s still a nuisance to have to continue playing some of them again to get better scores or times to earn more stars. It would have made more sense to just let players progress to the next area by just completing all the levels in the current area in either modes.
Scattered across each of the levels in Stunt mode are challenges meant for giving players the chance to score higher scores more easily. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to usually see what the challenge entails when racing by at high speed and some of them are quite confusing, which results in not earning a lot of points towards the total level score.
Players can create their own levels and then upload them to the game’s server for others to enjoy playing. However, it’s only possible to download tracks by being provided with codes from the players that created them. It kinda defeats the purpose of letting players upload and download user created content. The tools used to create a level are also not very intuitive, in that it’s difficult to easily create obstacles and such. It doesn’t even seem worth the effort since easily sharing content is what makes for a thriving community in a game.
The money earned by completing levels or finding it within the levels can also be used to purchase clothes from a shops. However, the amount of clothes available to purchase is rather limited. Attempting to navigate the various menus feels a bit sketchy. Like quitting a level will result in going back to the overall Garage section, rather than the area for the level that was being played. It would have also been nice to get some visual representation of the character’s position and what remained of the level before reaching the finish line. Still, at least the title has some of the nicest visuals that have graced the Nintendo 3DS handheld and it certainly makes good use of the handheld’s often forgotten stereoscopic 3D effects feature.
Overall, Urban Trial Freestyle 2 is a decent attempt that is fun to play – albeit one that is often marred by frustrating design choices.