Critics often use words like ‘floaty’ or ‘imprecise’ to describe sidescrolling platformers that don’t quite nail the feel of jumping. These are words for games that are almost great—let down by the constant, nagging annoyance of a core interaction that doesn’t feel good enough. So yes, Trials of the Blood Dragon’s platforming sections feel floaty. And yes, they’re imprecise. But neither descriptor quite covers it. Here’s one that does: abysmal.
It’s as if Trials—a series of games about riding bikes through perilous obstacle courses—is a poor fit for running, gunning, and jumping. Previous Trials games featured custom track editors that players used to create absurd things, from shooters to first-person parkour platformers. The thrill was in seeing something unexpected and subversive. That more than made up for the fact they were so wonky and awkward. But Trials of the Blood Dragon is an official Ubisoft release being sold for actual money. It doesn’t have the same excuse.
As the name suggests, Trials of the Blood Dragon is a continuation of 2013’s Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Its two protagonists—Roxanne and Slayter—are the children of Rex Power Colt, the original’s Michael Biehn-voiced lead. They, too, are cybercommandos in a neon cyberpunk world where the ’80s seemingly never ended. It’s silly, but deliberately so, and the between-level animated cutscenes are a highlight.
The tone of the parody still doesn’t make much sense—despite the young age of its main characters, Trials of the Blood Dragon retains the original’s awkward, unnatural pairing of ’80s cartoon aesthetic and ’80s crude, violent action. At times the dialogue slips into innuendo—as with GTA’s Republican Space Rangers, ‘parody’ seems to be a synonym for dick jokes. But, despite the artifice of the style, it’s clear the writers are having fun. It’s an absurd, scattershot approach to a ridiculous decade, complete with live-action adverts, hammy title cards, and VHS-style scan lines. It’s messy, but fun.
As you load into a level, you pray silently that it’s one of the bike ones. The bike levels, unlike the not-bike levels, are mostly good. That’s because, while on a bike, you’re just playing Trials. You drive across a sidescrolling environment, using the control pad’s analogue stick—or keyboard, if you’re feeling brave—to lean backwards or forwards. There are ramps, jumps, falls and a variety of obstacles. Sometimes you’ll fall off your bike, at which point you can instantly respawn at a checkpoint to try again. It’s a proven formula: Trials Evolution is a fantastic game, and, in these levels, Trials of the Blood Dragon offers a similar experience, albeit with a different colour palette.