Ever since the original Trials launched on XBLA back in the day, I have been a huge fan of the series. I have seen countless attempts at knock offs on mobile app stores but have largely stayed away from them, preferring the tight controlling counterpart much more. When I caught glimpse of Urban Trial: Playground's trailer for Nintendo Switch, I was ready to give it a try. It offered the best of both worlds: Trials-esque gameplay on a mobile but powerful setting. While I walk away from it not disappointed, I wasn't blown away either. Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad game per say, but it does not capitalize enough on its own initiatives either.
At face value, it looks very similar to Trials series, albeit with cleaner backdrops (inspired by California) and a surfer-bro aesthetic both in its characters and music. When you get to the nitty-gritty, the gameplay is actually quite different. While seemingly inspired by Trials, it actually does not feature the tough, edge of your seat, practice-makes-better type tracks that the former is known for, but rather has two different approaches to gameplay. The first is speed structured tracks. These are as simple as the come concept wise: ride hard and ride fast to the finish line, and cross it before a certain time to gain the best merits. Now riding the track to a T is key to quickly pacing along, so lining up your jump and landing neatly on the following ramp is ideal, but the tracks do not offer much more than that in the way of difficulty. You are introduced to some curve balls, like having the ability to duck and jump over obstacles, but this feature is brought into the mix far too late, appearing noticeably well into the latter half of the games levels. It is a shame too, because this gameplay style would have really separated it from the pack so to speak.
The other style is trick based, which too, is rather limited. You get points for: going fast, wheelies, stoppies, front flips, backflips, and for some general variations of these. You can chain them together by keeping things varied during a stretch, earning you maximum points. While this can be fun, and is for the most part, it is constrained to these moves. There is not much here on the 2D plane to keep you trying new moves, and without some BMX style to keep things interesting, it grows rather dull.
Same goes for the levels. While I liked their designs, they were all too repetitive, with the same locations appearing all too frequently and becoming a blur. There is some nice lighting though, which stood out as fairly memorable, and the vivid colors played their part well too. Variety is the spice of life, meaning this game could use for some more seasoning. Urban Trials Playground tries to get the job done via its customization options, but these too are also fairly light.
The characters are, well, unique to say the least. They have a “California” style which makes me want to avoid California, with the clothing options being very 80’s douchebag chiq, for lack of a better description. The characters can be seen dabbing as they ride, in addition to spouting out corny catchphrases to match their “totally tubular” lifestyles. The music is just as annoyingly “in your face”, attributing to a few repetitive god awful takes on “surfer music”. I could do without the audio, that’s for sure. As far as your bike goes, there are more options to play with here, but I found most of it to be unnecessary. The first 30 levels are so are easy enough to pass with a solid rank without ever upgrading, and the final bike and all its upgrades can be bought shortly after that, saving you the bother of playing with the minor upgrades.
Urban Trials Playground features over 50 levels and a split screen multiplayer mode, but at $20, it may not contain enough variety for a lot of potential buyers. While the tracks were solid and I did enjoy them, I found a fair amount of flaws in the overall package. From frame rate stutters, to on-the-track dabs, Urban Trials Playground just is not as creative or explorative as it could and should be. It is a game that flies high but more often than not, tends to fall flat, or at least short of expectations.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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