Release Date: 30th March 2017
In the mean streets of a distant, unforgiving suburbia, one man makes it through the only way he knows how: totally rad backflips and hella-tight bike stunts.
“Dont forget that going backwards is sometimes the way forwards.”
Urban Trial Freestyle 2 is a 3DS exclusive sequel to the wall-riding, bike-wrangling original, set in a decidedly urban landscape. Playing as a nameless, thrill-seeking ‘dude-bro’, you’re tasked with performing stunts and tricks as you navigate one of each world’s obstacle-laden levels. Whilst the worlds follow an urban theme, they remain interesting, varied and hold their own unique features. Whilst our bodacious biker’s first greenhorn dashes through a local neighbourhood are relatively simplistic, it’s not long until the impossible off-road landscape of a crumbling industrial complex or a city filled with spring-loaded platforms must be surmounted.
Freestyle 2 is a platform game on two wheels. The parkour required to get through levels can be impressive and you will see your biker hilariously smash into all manner of wall, roof or ramp over and over again as you get a feel for each level, disgruntled, yet still totally tubular, groans leave our racer limp like a rag doll. Luckily, there are checkpoints evenly scattered throughout each level, and should you want to save yourself from utter obliteration, a simple press of the ‘X’ button warps you to your last checkpoint to give it another run-up, sparing you a score penalty. There’s a deviously addictive edge to Freestyle 2, throwing you straight back into the action again and again so seamlessly that it’s almost impossible not to want to keep trying.
Levels aren’t linear in a conventional sense, each course has bags of money littered around, wisely reversing or leaping high enough at just the right moment is how you claim them, hidden in nooks or higher parts of each stage. Impossible, reason-defying tricks are demanded from you simply to get by; achieving them is every flavour of satisfying as you learn the game’s mechanical nuances. Like a grubby, skeleton-garbed acrobat with an affinity for motors and a disregard for tomorrow, you spin and wheelie your way to the finish line, but learning and judging how can take a bit of time. An easy mistake to make is to give in to Racer Syndrome, affixing one’s thumb to the speed button and never letting go, unlike someone…
That’s a recipe for certain death in the world of Freestyle 2. It’s all about learning to let go, but not quite in the Kate Winslet way. By doing so as you leap into the air or allowing yourself to let gravity guide you down ramps, you can build more speed and traverse each level in a far more fluid way, forcing you to be a bit more engaged with how you race. Leaning and balancing your bike is also essential as you careen through the air, not landing perfectly means death and even an over-zealous push of the A button can gently tip you over, which of course also means death. Once learned, you’ll shuttle through the air, spinning and hopping and hurtling and shooting through wreckage, landing perfectly before racing forward. This fluidity and speed feels amazing to play and with the addition of customisable bikes and elusive moneybags, you’ll want and have every reason to return, replay and retrieve.
Customisation is relatively light, but can change the whole feel of the game as you grab money to buy new parts which aids your playstyle; if speed is what you want you can invest in the right wheels, same can be said for handling or acceleration. You can even unlock whole new bikes with default settings that each handle differently as you customise and design your ideal ride. Cosmetic customisation for your racer is also light, helmets, gloves, jackets and trousers each falling into one of five brands, mixing or matching to your heart’s content. Graphically, Freestyle 2 is of course far more streamlined than its predecessor on other, more powerful consoles, but the 3D effect here adds a great deal of believable depth, especially as you race through interiors, peaking through bars or windows as you speed further into the grand diorama of the game, it’s a wonderful touch.
The exclusive level editor from the games previous 3DS release returns here, allowing you to build up to 30 of your own tracks by using any number of resized or re-positioned assets already present in the game, you’re then free to share your track online with other players. Its feels natural to drag, drop and edit through a touch screen and the process of designing levels is light and easy.
Urban Trial Freestyle 2 is a content packed game that feels great to play, and whilst it might not gleam as brightly as its predecessor graphically, the core of its tried and tested game-play still hums beneath. The appeal of a stunt bike racing game may not reach out to all aesthetically, but beneath its “urban” styling’s rests a ludicrously addictive and incredibly balanced game. It feels like NES classic Excite Bike but as a strange sort of platformer with the infectious difficulty curve of a title like Super Meat Boy, and that can only be a good thing. Despite its, dare I say, shovelware-esque trappings, it truly shines as a Nintendo E-shop exclusive.
Rating: 7 out of 10