Developer: RedLynx and Ubisoft
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 2.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

At last, the Trials series hits mobile with Trials Frontier, now available worldwide after its Canadian soft launch! Unfortunately, it’s free-to-play. I don’t say this in the way that some people automatically despair about games going free-to-play. No, after playing Trials Frontier, I think the way that its business model affects the game diminishes what is otherwise a great experience at its core.

trials_frontier_screenshot_7Developed by RedLynx, creators of the Trials series and of the similar MotoHeroz, this is a level-based stunt biking game. Players ride their motorbike through a level, trying to avoid hazards and navigate the tricky terrain in order to make it to the end in one piece while performing flips along the way because they’re cool. It’s a game that requires patience, as many levels will require restarting from checkpoints (which are thankfully frequent) to make it through – but greater rewards come to those who complete levels faster and in fewer restarts.

Really, the core Trials game is well-represented on mobile. The levels are short and start out simple enough, but they pick up over time in challenge – requiring a brand of precision and speed, developed through practice, in order to master them. Using the virtual buttons to lean the bike work well enough, though I would appreciate gamepad support. The visuals are colorful, with a western theme that works well through the game. The fact that the game on first launch just jumps right into gameplay without any intro whatsoever is something I hope other games imitate: why waste time?

The thing about Trials Frontier is just the way that the free-to-play aspects are so overwhelming. Missions are so heavily regulated, and designed to put players on a track where they just do the next thing in a mindless way without even really thinking all that hard about it. Upgrades, and the constant push to get more currency to pay for them, are life in this game – and they come with wait timers. The energy system’s very existence. This is a game that requires grinding for materials: the energy just feels superfluous.

trials_frontier_screenshot_03And really, the game’s not that bad at being a free game! Energy refills come whenever players level up, which comes fairly regularly, and each energy unit refills fairly quickly. As well, in-race restarts don’t take up any energy, so those going for gold medals don’t have much to worry about. A $2.99 intro pack that’s available for 48 hours is a great value, providing an exclusive bike and loads of currency. The game could definitely be more pushy, which is a kind of backhanded compliment toward a free-to-play game, but this is the world we live in.

I just think that Trials Frontier didn’t have to be part of this world. It’s not the worst transition to a free-to-play business model, but it shows how it can harm a game not initially built around it. The trappings of the business model drown out what is great about this game.

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