Incredibly frustrating motorcycle stunt game, but beyond the shoddy exterior is some rich gameplay.
We almost didn’t review Urban Trial Freestyle. It was downloaded; it was played; it was laughed at; it was brutally derided; we even considered making a gameplay video to demonstrate all the ridiculous and uncontrollable ways to crash, and the hilarious consequences to your rider’s body when you do (we still might do this); and then… well, we picked it up and played again. And again.
This cycle continued until the ridiculously sensitive, confusing and unsuitable controls became responsive, wide-ranging and satisfying.
How could this outlook on what at times looks too much like a Tony Hawks 2 iPhone port change so drastically? It was the point where sheer exasperation became bloody-minded determination. Suddenly, the obstacles to the next part of the track became miniature puzzles to solve in order to progress, much in the same way that the most popular puzzlers are addictive in their frustrating difficulty. Previously annoying sections where the ‘camera’ is obscured by a poorly placed tower, also became just another natural obstacle that you would need skill to overcome.
But, going back to the beginning, and putting our honesty cap on – the controls are a freakin’ disaster.
On the left hand side of the screen, is an icon for controlling your positioning. You can hold and swipe to the right to balance the rider onto the front wheels, and to the left, to put weight on the back. However, we’d eventually learn that putting weight on the back is only ever useful for quickly righting yourself mid-air, mid-trick. The most phone-smashingly frustrating part was when the bike would do a wheelie and flip straight onto its back when riding in neutral. A slight slip of the finger, or if your finger slides off the control, as it can do considering you have to hold the control to the right almost constantly to stop backflipping over, and you’re gone.
Of course, if there were any instructions, or attempts to guide the player at any point in Urban Trial Freestyle, this would have been less of a problem.
Lack of guidance
It’s not just in the controls where there is a lack of guidance, either. The main menus are clean, simple, and straight-forward. Which means it’s often impossible to know what you’re selecting. One of our favorite examples, is when you go into the ‘garage’, where you can fix up your bike, there are three options for buying new tires. All have the same image, all have the same price-tag. Furthermore, you can pay to upgrade your bike, or you can unlock bikes (it’s never clear when a new bike will unlock) – but can you customize an unlocked bike? Apparently not. You must start customizing and upgrading from the plain old standard bike.
However, speaking of the garage and cash – a great thing about UTF is there are no IAP – despite the game itself being ripe for this kind of thing. Peculiarly, it’s also easy as hell to accrue cash. There are money bags littered all around the tracks, at the top of ramps, sometimes just hanging out on the path! We have a cool $40k just hanging out after we bought every upgrade (that’s right, we have all three types of tire. Still don’t know which is best). Any takers?
Level of detail
Back to the gameplay. The tracks take place in various locations, from scrapyards, to parks, to urban city centers and even on a moving train (this was the level that started changing our minds about this game…). Each have an incredibly intricate level of detail. There are concrete pipings, rising elevators, springboards, and in one instance, a rolling car wreck just ready to crush you. Some obstacles are ridiculous in scope and plenty of times you can’t see where you’re going and have to crash and restart about 100 times before you figure out how to get past it.
However, when you start to customize your bike, the level of control increases exponentially. While you still struggle to figure out how to get past certain obstacles, at least you aren’t wheeling about on your rear end the whole damn time.
Overall, UTF has a lot of potential. At the start it seems like a lazy ripoff, with zero attention applied to the controls. But if you start to think of it as a puzzle game, it becomes increasingly addictive. With a ton of levels, and its own track editor, there’s longevity to the game, too.
Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Size: 119 MB
Developer: Tate Multimedia