As part of the Xbox Black Friday sales, I recently picked up Trials of the Blood Dragon, mainly because it was at a super-cool price at 50% off. I’ve largely been put off buying the game previously due to the game being critically meta-bombed by unfavourable reviews from outlets such as God Is A Geek and Edge Magazine. Given largely that Red Lynx’s physics engine would remain unchanged, I pondered what exactly was so bad about this game to get a 55-57 Metacritic.com average. Given I was taking a much lower risk at the deflated price, I swept aside Sunday morning and decided to plough through the game and see what it was all about.
Firstly, the origins of Trials of the Blood Dragon very much centers around a becoming trend from games publishers to mash-up different game franchises. This title mixes the action 80-90’s B-Movie appeal of the Far Cry spin-off Blood Dragon with the Trials series. What has culminated is an audacious title that far reaches beyond the Trials DLC that featured a unicorn. I quite liked the non-serious approach the series has been dipping its feet into, but other critics don’t feel that way.
We’d much rather play the awful unicorn levels in [Trials] Fusion’s Awesome Level Max DLC, which probably ranks among the most damning things we’ve ever said about a game. [Issue#296, p.123] – Edge Magazine
Trials of the Blood Dragon can be completed in around 3-3.5 hours if you are looking for a basic playthrough, though to unlock all of the achievements and unlockables you will need to invest far more time into the game, but to be frank I have way too many games to burn through to bother. So, with the length in mind, how does the gameplay? It plays pretty darn good, the physics are on point as can be expected with Trials games, giving the game challenge with the weight distribution of the rider, timing jumps and contending with obstacles. But this title throws in a bunch of new game features. Firstly, to fight the commie bastards (their words, not mine) you will be equipped with an Uzi gun which can be used to kill enemies with the right analog stick. Secondly, to traverse some of the 30 stages you will also be given a grappling hook at the appropriate times, this is a nice new feature that in certain levels you’ll have to use precision hook techniques to reach the relevant platforms you want to touch to continue your run. Then there are a number of extra vehicles added to Blood Dragon, a tank, a jet pack, an RC car, BMX and for those fans of Donkey Kong Country, a mine cart. Some of these feel intuitive, others feel cumbersome. The jet pack is a joy to use, whilst the tank feels calibrated with physics as completely secondary.
Lastly, in terms of features comes the platforming sections. Yes, in order to put a storyline together, around 35-40% of the game takes place with no vehicle at all. In a clunky and dumbed down version of The Shadow Complex, you’ll control Rex Power Bolt’s children to take out more commie generals through platforming and shooting levels that hold the same one fail retry system which will reset to the last checkpoint. Fortunately, the checkpoints are very frequent as these sections in the game are boring and technically dull, fortunately, there are a few mini-boss fights that help improve the platforming sections, but they provide little challenge. Where the game shines though is the level design, throughout the 30 stages, there is a real variety from a Vegas in Hell themed section, underground chasms, war-torn countryside and dystopian cityscapes. They are a joy to ride through on bike with plenty of eye candy happening in the background whilst traversing obstacles, performing huge jumps and looping around gravity changing environments.
So, to re-cap the graphics are very satisfying, the new vehicles are a welcomed addition and the platforming sections are rubbish, but what else makes Trials of the Blood Dragon what it is? The storyline. This game cobbles together a woven storyline of complete nonsense, whether purposely done or not, it is backed up by poor voice acting and a finishing cut-scene that even suggests there could be a follow-up to the game, it is an omission that Ubisoft are more than willing to flog every piece of candy out of this series like a Pinata. None of it is compelling, you are driven more on what levels you will face next, not what will happen as the storyline progresses. That said, Trials of the Blood Dragon easily has some of the more inventive levels any of the Trials games has had before it and because of that, if you are a Trials fan, you should ignore the lower threshold scores and give this game a whirl.
- Great Level Design
- B-Movie Cut-Scenes
- Retro Feel
- Rubbish Storyline
- Poor Audio Dialogue
- Platforming Sections