Every child dreams of driving a motorcycle down a dirt road at a blazing speed, only to go soaring through the air, do a couple of flips and land safely in a box of TNT. When Trials Evolution first came out about a year ago, only Xbox 360 owners could live this dream, but now, with the help of the game’s Gold Edition, PC gamers can join their brothers. Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is every bit as fun as the console version, and offers a diverse and creative array of challenging levels to test your reflexes and virtual driving skills. The game does wear out its welcome as it progresses, but thankfully the abundance of user-generated tracks helps keep things fresh and unpredictable. It’s a shame the game’s core experience isn’t nearly as satisfying.

Let’s get this out of the way: Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is a port, and it feels like one. The graphics have been slightly updated and the controls were tweaked, but this is still very much a console game best enjoyed with a gamepad (preferably an Xbox 360 controller). As with most driving games, it’s still possible to play with the keyboard, but controls are much smoother with the gamepad. Thanks to the very simple controls, TE is pretty easy to pick up and play, and a little harder to master. Shifting the rider’s weight between the front and back of the motorcycle is the key to successfully pulling off all the jumps, flips, wheelies and dangerous, yet spectacular stunts the game lets you do. Failure to do so correctly will cause your rider to crash in an entertaining way, going completely limp and flying through the air like a rag doll. Indeed, even in defeat Trial Evolution is fun and almost never frustrating; almost.

Speaking of spectacular, Trials Evolution: Gold Edition looks great. Graphics aside, the visual design of each level is stunning, with beautiful backgrounds and exhilarating explosions that shake the screen, causing bits and pieces of the track to fall apart, adding to the chaos and thrill of the game. The music too contributes a lot to the whole “extreme motorsport” vibe the game has going on. Once you make it through the horrible intro song, TE’s soundtrack is fast, trashy and overall compliments the gameplay’s most basic element – speed.

The core concept behind Trials Evolution is pretty simple – get to the end of the obstacle course without crashing. When you first don the helmet (safety first!) of you motorbiking avatar and run through the first few levels, TE is pure joy; going full speed onto a ramp, making a few back flips and nailing the landing is obviously a satisfying feeling. The fluent structure of the early levels, where each jump leads seamlessly into the next slope as everything around you bursts into flames and collapses, helps keep the adrenalin pumping and the gameplay extremely addictive. Unfortunately, as the game progresses and you reach the more difficult levels, TE stops being a turbulent joyride and becomes a slow and meticulous experience of pin-point precision and nerves (partly because of the seldom jittery physics). The later levels are mostly a tedious process of trial-and-error that doesn’t really pay off once you manage to complete it. Still, the single-player experience is simply an appetizer for what’s in store in the online portion of the game.

The multiplayer itself feels a little tacked-on, and is basically just four players racing against each other (online or off) on a variety of courses; the real competition happens on the leaderboards. The game will let you know when a friend beats your speed record, and even adds a little dot with your friend’s gamertag floating beside you when you drive through the level as a motivation to regain the high record.

Track Central, as the game calls it, is probably where you’ll find the best, most challenging and fun tracks available. This system allows you to download user-generated levels or make your own and share them with the world. You can filter tracks according to difficulty, rating or tags; or search for those inventive tracks that offer an entirely different gameplay experience or a unique visual style. Of course, as with any user-generated content, you’ll also find tracks inspired by some of your favorite gaming or movie franchises. Once you’ve played through enough of them, you’re ready to start making original tracks and share them with the entire Trials Evolution community, with relative ease.

Trial Evolution: Gold Edition is a well made port that has everything that made the original Xbox 360 version such a blast to play. It’s fun and addictive, and if not for the unfortunate turn towards tedious repetition about half way through, the core single-player experience might have been more than a mere tutorial for the main attraction – the user-generated tracks. Inventive, unique and challenging, the user-generated content is the highlight of Trials Evolution, and can keep the game going strong for many months to come. If you’re a competitive PC gamer who likes beating other people’s high scores and enjoys a good challenge, Trials Evolution is the game for you. So strap on a helmet and hold on to your gamepad – this is going to be a bumpy ride.

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