Trials of the Blood Dragon has an awful, awful main menu, which eschews text for a drawing of a bedroom that has you find out by trial and error that leaderboards are found on a TV set and the locker is for heavens knows what. Somewhere in there is a computer. Click on it and you’ll be shown a trailer for Trials Fusion, a game which invited you to play one of its 150 levels, or indulge in its ‘limitless creation possibilities’ and multiplayer. Trials Fusion costs 20 USD if it’s not on sale, 5 Dollars more than Blood Dragon, and while Fusion is a bit meandering and confused, it’s a fun game at its heart. Trials of the Blood Dragon had no multiplayer, no creation suite and is dreadfully misconceived at almost every level. What happened, Redlynx?

What happened, it feels, was a seed of a good idea was planted and then given a handful of weeks to develop. Far Cry Blood Dragon attained such a cult popularity that it would make sense for Blood Dragon to become the franchise, and for it to drop in and out of other Ubisoft properties with its brand of humour and presentation. The problem is that the game was surprise launched at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, and it really feels like nothing about the game had the time to get fleshed out beyond the prototype phase.

TBD, slight as it is, is divided into two parts. Basic bike riding is, well, Trials. Ride from start to finish on stages that, while having some explosive set pieces to speed past feature nothing too far beyond what we’ve seen in the last two core installments. The overwhelming feel here is that these are a bunch of accomplished levels that were created by the community in Fusion’s level editor, and though stylistically there’s a transition between different environments to suit the story, the game feels poorly curated.

Unlike other Trials games, there’s not a gradual coaching through mechanics and physics, leading to ultimate tests in its final sections. Instead, the game wants you to breeze through its story, and there’s little to separate opening stages from closing ones, beyond length. New additions to basic Trials includes the use of BMX bikes and grappling hooks; the former feel precisely like the regular motorbikes anyway, and the latter are criminally underutilized. Action Henk had a science to its grappling in a similar setting; here it’s merely a means to create bigger jumps. The one level where the grappling hook is exploited more fully, as part of a boss fight themed track against ninja with overly engineered traps, is good fun and merely highlights how the rest of the game falls short.

On foot sections look woefully amateurish, and handle spectacularly poorly.

On foot sections look woefully amateurish, and handle spectacularly poorly.

There’s been a sense of diminishing returns around Trials for a while, and most of TBD feels like it’s going through the motions. When you are given a change of pace, driving a large truck or having to escort a fragile bomb, it’s too similar to core play and immensely frustrating respectively. Given how the mini games that have been a part of Trials for years could easily be woven into Blood Dragon’s humorous nature, it’s a shame to see the diversions here seem rushed and ill conceived.

The biggest diversion is the second part to TBD: run and gun action. Now, the aforementioned Action Henk, along with the likes of Doritos Crash Course showed platforming can combine well with the Trials formula. It’s not much of a leap to imagine shooting fitting in as well. Yet one can only assume these sections in TBD were cooked up in an afternoon, broken, nigh unplayable disasters as they are.

Like the rest of the game, platforming really feels like a minigame made in the Fusion editor. If it was built by the community, it would be worthy of some respect and plaudits, but this is something Ubi are charging for. These laughably animated characters, these weak guns, these horrible floating jumps which, get this, are default mapped to the R2 button with X still being restart. This isn’t the result of hacking something together from a product that shouldn’t by rights allow it. This is the thing, the actual charged for product. The B-movie-and-game loving Blood Dragon franchise could potentially have owned this. If the game was about showing the strings that made it work, TBD could at least poke fun at its failures. Instead, at least one third of the game is just atrocious, and when you do mercifully get back in the saddle, the riding isn’t good enough to make up for the on foot mess.

The best parts of TBD are watched, not played. The story, following straight on from Far Cry Blood Dragon isn’t enough to be a saving grace of the product, but its cartoon cutscenes with Team America meets Seargant Salughter era GI Joe stylings are pleasant rewards for play.

The thing is, Trials as a franchise has typically had the play itself be reward enough. It’s a real shame for Redlynx’s franchise, once an indie darling, to be subjected to short dev cycles just to make for a cheap pop during a corporate conference, and meander with so few creative aims. It says Trials on the tin, but this is mainly a game of errors.

1/4 Pops: weak One pop games may be functional, and enjoyable to some, but not the reviewer. Mechanical or conceptual failings make them impossible to recommend.
PS4 version tested

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