If TimeOut had considered awarding an MVP gong for the games on display at last month's Xbox's Spring Showcase, RedLynx's dirtbike platformer Trials Evolution would have claimed it with superlative ease. No other game on the floor had as many people hooked through each day.
It picks up where 2009's Xbox Live Arcade hit, Trials HD, left off. It's not nearly as punishing as its predecessor but it's still a platformer played at speed, through some neatly-rendered outdoor environments, and it delivers on its promises in every conceivable way.
The physics system is nothing short of amazing, allowing your rider to soar through the sky with a simple leaning tilt mechanic to control your landings and ascent over the next hill or obstacle. That's how you win. You can lose quite spectacularly by messing up those leaps and landings. Each of your failures is accompanied by a Batmanesque "crash!" graphic - and because a restart is just a quick button press away, you're back on your bike before your teeth have had half a chance to grind. If you're not at least smirking when your rider flies and flops like a helmeted rag doll after a bike-bending crash - or better, an implausibly large explosion - then you had best check your pulse. This game is great comedy.
You can play with up to four players locally or across XBL, or one-on-one against a friend, or a stranger via matchmaking. Your custom tracks - and take note, your options are remarkably flexible - can be shared with anyone else, friend or not.
In my first experience of the finished version, I found myself thrown into immediate competition against an Xbox Live mate, whose gamertag marker raced ahead of my little guy on the track. The next hour or so was dedicated to running his ghost marker down and challenging his score across multiple tracks, punctuated by my hoots of victory and snarls of frustration. From there, I worked to beat my own times.
This game is a stellar example of how a simple idea, executed to near flawlessness, can hold its own. The basic play reminds you of what made 8-bit classics so great, while the depth and execution of its competitive and customisation aspects put it up there with the likes of Halo and Forza for 21st century fun.
Trials Evolution encourages competition that's as engaging and as intense as any gun-in-hand multiplayer blastfest and, thanks to the mind-bending absurdity of its crash physics, it makes failure feel just as rewarding as success.
Platform: Xbox 360