I’ve not played a Trials title before. I’ve seen games like it on other platforms but the Trials format hasn’t really appealed, despite the series getting a good following. Similarly, I’ve not played any of the Far Cry series of games, again, being not quite my cup of tea. How could this mash-up of the two begin to win me over?
Let’s start with the story. Having not followed the Far Cry games or tie-ins, I’ve no idea who Rex Colt is, or why he’s a cyber-commando. Anyway, his kids, Slayter and Roxanne are tasked with stopping Vietnam War 4. The “commies” have rapidly spread across the planet and only the kids can stop them.
This single player campaign sees you jump on your trusty trials bike to travel to the location that you need to get to. From here on in there appears to be a definite disconnect between the gameplay elements and the story. It feels incidental to what you have to do, almost as if the story has been tagged on afterwards to give the game some purpose instead of an add-on pack to the Trials series.
It’s an odd situation for this title as it doesn’t quite hit the Trials heights yet doesn’t feel like it’s a Far Cry title. It’s difficult to place the game. There are elements of Trials in there with the vehicle sections and there’s more than one vehicle to control along the way. There are also some curious platforming sections which again feel more than a little bolted on.
So, the story and the action feel more than a little disconnected. This is represented in the mission selection area, which is the teenage kids’ bedroom. Mission areas are shown as posters on the wall and there are other sections in this room, like U-Play rewards that you can collect. You can also choose some kind of companion animal. This is all well and good, but once more, I’m struggling to see the connection between this and either Trials or Far Cry.
RedLynx have done a good job on the graphics in Trials of the Blood Dragon, with an 80s video game feel to the cut-scenes. In keeping with the usual standard that Ubisoft offer, Trials is very well animated even if the bike lean physics seem a little haphazard. Speaking of haphazard, there are some new features in the game, like weapons for the rider to use and a grappling hook. My only gripe with these from a control point of view is that they use the right stick. It feels clumsy and while I understand why it’s being used, it doesn’t take away that awkward feeling. When you are up to the point where you’re forced to get off your trusty bike, the controls feel more than a little like treading water.
Moving around on foot gives the game a new dynamic, but it’s really where the controls and gameplay lets the title down. It doesn’t have the polish that other Ubisoft platformers offer. It’s another part of Trials of the Blood Dragon that feels more than a little glued on.
This isn’t to say that the game is frustratingly difficult. It’s not. You’ve got a specific amount of time to run the course in front of you. Along the length of the course there are regular checkpoints. These are regularly interspersed and for good reason. Flip the bike physics the wrong way and you’ll face-plant. This is oddly, for a bionic teen commando, instant death and you’re back to the last checkpoint. These tries also count against you in the points reckoning at the end of the run.
This points reckoning serves to level up your animal companion. Again, I’m not really sure why. It might be because the game, at 30 levels across seven worlds is a little on the short side. Whatever the reason, it somehow feels ancillary to actual gameplay.
In-game audio wise, Trials of the Blood Dragon brings the usual bike revs and background crashing. It’s actually done really well, until you get to the ‘Godzilla’ part, when it all seems to end up being more than a little on the cheesy side. The bonus is that Michael Biehn makes an appearance as the narrator along the way. The background music errs on the side of ‘80s electronic pop, which depending on which side of the fence you sit on that score, may or may not be a good thing.
I’m not saying that I don’t like Trials of the Blood Dragon. On the contrary, it’s fun in a short-burst pick up for a laugh kind of way. It’s massively let down by a complete disconnect between the story and the gameplay though. It’s well presented and sounds exactly how you’d expect a Blood Dragon game to sound, but the mechanics of the various elements are another disappointment. This all contributes to the overall feeling that the game has been cobbled together. At £11.99 it’s also a little on the expensive side for the 30 missions you’ll get to play and the general consensus is that Far Cry: Blood Dragon is probably the better of the two titles.