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Trials Rising is back to being ridiculous, thank god

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The series returns to its delightfully goofy roots

Trials Rising - Start of a race RedLynx/Ubisoft via Polygon

The Trials games have never been about realism. They’re physics-based motorcycle platformers where I’m trying to get a motorcycle across a pit of fire while fireworks explode around me. Trials Evolution, from 2012, has a track where I ride my motorcycle across Normandy Beach during World War 2. It’s ridiculous.

The series took a different path in 2014 with Trials Fusion and a futuristic setting. Trials Fusion curbs the silliness of the franchise, apart from some occasional laser gunships and hover cars. I noted its “dull presentation” and “generic, neon-infused future” in my review. It’s a disappointing game.

Trials Rising corrects this mistake in bombastic fashion.

I zoom through a Hollywood backlot in one of the easiest levels of Trials Rising. I crash through a bank heist scene as a vault blows open. I backflip through an alien invasion movie as claws try to rip my bike to scrap. A cop car explodes at one point, flying through the air before being lifted by wires, turning it into an impromptu ramp. This is the Trials I fell in love with.

And that level is not out of the ordinary in this game. Every track in Trials Rising has at least one unexpected or outlandish moment. I’m chasing after a runaway train in one level. I ride through the middle of a demonic summoning ceremony in another. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent theme across the whole game, which makes every level a total surprise.

Thematic or tonal inconsistencies like this would detract from the fun in most games. But there’s something about Trials that allows this all to work together. The gameplay is never impacted by these strange diversions. Trials Rising is still a precise, physics-based motorcycle platforming game. But the diverse trappings allow it to refresh itself, to prevent its own simplicity from feeling like a burden. It’s rare to play a game in a series that has run this long without having any idea what you’re going to see next.

Trials Rising’s customization systems further emphasize this scattershot nature. As I play I earn loot boxes and currency to buy new hats, jackets and motorcycle attachments to customize my player character. Most of these unlocks are basic, what you might find in a standard motocross kit. But Rising allows players to edit these pieces with hundreds of stickers before uploading them to the in-game store for other players to buy. What was once a normal motorcycle helmet becomes Spider-Man’s mask, thanks to some industrious, legally-immune creator on the web.

After a few hours my player character had become a visual representation of the same chaos seen throughout Rising’s levels. Spider-Man’s head sits atop the body of Solaire, the sun-loving knight from Dark Souls, as he rides along on rainbow tires.

It’s hard not to love a game this eager to impress me with its pyrotechnics. Trials Rising is the kid at the fast food joint, filling their cup with 16 kinds of soda. And it’s delicious.