Tri­als Of The Blood Dragon

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - PLAY -

With Tri­als Of The Blood Dragon, RedL­ynx – keen to dis­tance it­self from the ac­cu­sa­tions of me­chan­i­cal ho­mo­gene­ity and rep­e­ti­tion so of­ten lev­elled at pub­lisher Ubisoft – seems to have gone out of its way to en­sure Tri­als fans no longer have to en­dure a con­tin­ual pro­ces­sion of bril­liantly con­ceived bike-based plat­form­ing chal­lenges. The prob­lem, of course, is that this is the one Ubisoft-pub­lished se­ries where any dis­trac­tion from the core me­chanic is grat­ing.

So, in the name of in­no­va­tion and di­ver­sity, we’re of­fered a se­lec­tion of spirit-sap­ping game­play modes whose only thread of com­mon­al­ity is that they’re poorly suited for Tri­als’ age­ing, bike-fo­cused en­gine. On-foot sec­tions de­liver floaty, vague con­trols that make it feel like your char­ac­ter is en­tirely dis­as­so­ci­ated from the en­vi­ron­ment – and you’ll have to ex­change fire with awk­wardly po­si­tioned en­e­mies along the way.

An in­fre­quently pi­loted re­mote-con­trol car sucks all of the joy out of the game’s ob­sta­cle cour­ses, while a brief stealth sec­tion does much the same for any twitch­ing rem­nant of your sense of mo­men­tum. And then there are the jet­pack por­tions in which you’re gifted a propul­sion de­vice that feels si­mul­ta­ne­ously un­der­pow­ered and er­ratic. RedL­ynx even takes the time to sully the mem­ory of Tri­als’ ex­cel­lent skill chal­lenges by mak­ing you drag a vi­bra­tion-sen­si­tive bomb across the sur­face of a moun­tain­ous, wreck­agestrewn alien planet. Rather than an inessen­tial dis­trac­tion in which you see how far you can get against in­creas­ingly long odds, how­ever, here it’s on the crit­i­cal path and im­me­di­ately fol­lowed with the game’s most galling jet­pack seg­ment.

The great­est an­noy­ance in all of this is that there are some truly mem­o­rable Tri­als mo­ments buried un­der­neath the rest of the tosh. A drug-fu­elled trip down the side of a build­ing stands out, as does a brief pin­ball-in­spired ob­sta­cle course. Shoot­ing at tar­gets while on the bike in­spires the oc­ca­sional grin, and the in­tro­duc­tion of a grap­pling hook shows flashes of po­ten­tial – though here it fal­ters thanks to the lack of con­vinc­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. And every in­stance of en­joy­able Tri­als bik­ing is weighed down by in­sep­a­ra­ble – and in­suf­fer­able – vari­a­tions on the theme.

Given the pro­mo­tional Tri­als Fu­sion video in­cluded in the pack­age, this off­shoot is pre­sum­ably in­tended to bring cu­ri­ous play­ers into the core se­ries’ fold, but we can’t think of a less ap­peal­ing in­tro­duc­tion. In fact, we’d much rather play the aw­ful uni­corn lev­els in Fu­sion’s Awe­some Level Max DLC, which prob­a­bly ranks among the most damn­ing things we’ve ever said about a game.

The Blood­Dragon treat­ment is er­rat­i­cally ap­plied, giv­ing an in­con­sis­tent aes­thetic that, while de­liv­er­ing pleas­ing art­work and live-ac­tion cutscenes, is let down by a scruffy game en­gine and an overuse of brown and beige

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