Review: 'Urban Trial Freestyle 2' (3DS)

Review: 'Urban Trial Freestyle 2' (3DS) TATE MULTIMEDIA

If you've ever played any of the Trials games, then you have some idea of what to expect from Urban Trial Freestyle 2. While the two games are very similar in gameplay and even in name, they're not officially related. As a result, you can't expect exactly the same level of quality; the game in general is lacking in polish, and some of the details have been flubbed. Overall, though, I have to say that I ultimately enjoyed myself playing this game.

In case you've never played any of the Trials games, Urban Trial Freestyle 2 puts you on a stunt bike and has you zoom through bike tracks filled with jumps, obstacles and more. You have your basic accelerator, brake and reverse, of course, but what makes it tricky is that you have to keep your wheels on the ground as well. Each sudden jerk forward has you doing a wheelie that you need to control, and each jump could have you landing at a strange angle that you need to correct for, lest you end up crashing and getting sent back to a checkpoint.

Getting through levels fast while making sure you don't crash is the crux of the gameplay. Each crash deducts from your score and increases your time, and it's actually very easy to crash if you aren't careful. Just rocketing out of the starting gate will have your character flip backwards and hit his head on the ground, for example. Otherwise you'll have to contend with curving tracks, partial loops, lots of jumps, and other obstacles that you may need to intentionally wheelie over. It's fun gameplay at its core, and the tracks are varied enough that if you like the game initially, you'll be able to stick with it for a while. It even feels like puzzle-solving in parts, like when you have to get over cylinders on the track. Later levels have greater complexity and dynamically changing parts, like trains that pull away, parts of the track that fall away, and things like that; these are usually fun to deal with, though some are more just annoying. Some of the jumps feel frustrating and can take multiple tries, though, especially if you're hitting your head on a low ceiling or something.

You can play each level in one of two modes: Time Attack and Stunt Mode. Time Attack is pretty self-explanatory: get through the level as fast as possible, while minimizing crashes. Stunt Mode also requires you to crash as little as possible, but on top of that you need to do as well as you can in a number of miniature challenges. There are four different kinds: Longest Jump, Highest Jump, Precise Aim (where you need to jump and try to hit a specific spot on the ground below) and Flip Meter (where you go for the biggest flip possible without crashing). Most of these are reasonable, even if the track tries its best to sabotage your setup if you go flying through; Precise Aim still drives me nuts, though, because you never really know what you're supposed to be hitting until it's too late to adjust your jump. Also, when you're driving past them quickly it can be hard to see exactly what challenge is coming up.

The better you do in a level, the more money you get; you can also collect bags of money scattered around the tracks. The money lets you upgrade your bike with better parts, to improve its speed or general performance, or you can unlock some other bikes that you might do better with. For a fairly small sum, you can get a new bike that's a huge upgrade over your current one, which definitely made a lot of the game easier, which was a slight disappointment. I noticed that it didn't seem possible to upgrade unlocked bikes, which I assume is an intentional choice that I'm fine with. You can also change your outfit by buying new clothes, but it appears to be only cosmetic, which means I don't care. Outside of my initial bike purchase, it felt like earning enough money for meaningful upgrades would take a rather long time, so I stopped thinking about it for the most part, and just occasionally checked the garage.

There's also a track editor, which lets you create your own race courses. You can throw down a variety of obstacles onto a flat track, test it out repeatedly, and once you're happy with it you can upload the track so others can play it. I found the interface a little unintuitive to use, however; sometimes dragging an object moved it, and other times it made a copy, and I didn't fully understand which was which. Other than that, testing seemed to work fine, but I'm never creative enough to really take advantage of these features, so I didn't explore it too much.

Graphically, the game simply underperforms. Even on the 3DS the graphics are of pretty poor quality, looking more like a really early PS2 game, which we should be outpacing at this point. The backgrounds are fine; they convey the appropriate setting, though sometimes they sort of tend to blend together and your brain just registers the background as a yellowish blob or something. The UI could stand to be a lot cleaner, with better color choices, but I rarely found it impeding my ability to play. The sound effects are mostly good, though some of the voice effects get overused. The music is fitting but forgettable, a sentence I find myself writing more and more these days.

Overall, Urban Trial Freestyle 2 is certainly a game. It's fine. It's not really a standout game in its quality, and it's definitely lacking in some areas, but the core gameplay is fun and it doesn't do anything to really detract from the fun factor of the experience. I don't find myself with a whole lot to say about it, or any really strong statements to make, because it just didn't leave much of a lasting impression for me. If you want a portable Trials experience on your 3DS and you have $7 to spend, this will probably scratch that itch for you. If you're just looking for a fun eShop game, though, there are better options out there.

Final Score: 6.8 out of 10

A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.

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