I was skeptical as Urban Trial Freestyle was downloading on my 3DS after I entered the review code. Never having played former entries in the series (nor ever really having ever even heard of the series…), I held no expectations and prepared myself for what would be, at best, an “okay” game (after all, $6.99 isn’t that big a price tag). What I played instead was a not just a nice time-killer, but a fairly expansive one given what you fork over to download it.
The primary campaign of the game is a City Map with five different areas, each with four tracks that a player can complete either in Time Attack mode or Stunt mode. Time Attack is standard auto fare, pitting your avatar against the clock in order to score a best time rated on a five-star scale. From the settings menu you can choose whether or not your ghost appears in the time attack mode, a nice addition for those looking to improve their best time and looking for some in-game visual to signal they’re doing better than they previously may have done.
Stunt mode is a bit stranger to describe to a non-player. It’s scored on a five-star scale like time attack, but instead you must beat certain designated in-track stunts (high jumps, long jumps, speed tests). For the most part speed isn’t as important here as is meeting the certain criteria of each task, allowing you more freedom to mess around and take in the environment.
Each of the five areas is visually unique, ranging from an abandoned down area to an underground sewer system conveniently arranged to accommodate a stunt cyclist. Each track within each of these areas also offers a distinct set of challenges, regardless of the mode you’re playing in. The loading messages will often remind the player that sometimes the best way to go forward is to go backward, and that’s certainly no lie. Especially in stunt mode, you’ll find yourself going in reverse in order to rack up speed to hit a jump just right or to go sifting through a hidden part of the track to collect some extra cash to upgrade your bike or avatar.
On the subject of upgrades, there are three bikes more powerful than your original machine which you can unlock by completing certain areas with a five-star rating in either Time Attack or Stunt mode. It’s nice that the unlockable bikes are either/or in terms of their unlock criteria, as there are areas in which some stunts are downright difficult to conquer while the time attack is a bit more forgiving, and vice versa. Giving preference to the player is a nice job by Strangelands, especially for an inexpensive title that’ll likely find its way into younger hands. In addition to the unlockable bikes, you can also buy part upgrades for your original bike to increase performance and different clothing items for your avatar to present him as you so desire.
One last thing you can unlock by performing well in the main areas is challenge maps that utilize gravity-manipulation by tilting the 3DS. This mode was quite difficult to get used to, as the addition of an extra, button-less control perplexed my feeble mind. After fumbling around for a while (and crashing my poor motorcyclist into 50 or so walls, spikes and ceilings) I somewhat got the hang of it, but there’s definitely a steep learning curve. Thankfully, the challenge mode is an accessory and not the main game, or else this entire review could have well gone an entirely different direction.
Aside from the gyroscopic stuff in challenge mode, the controls are very user-friendly. Urban Trial Freestyle relies only on the A button to accelerate, the B button to break, the Y button to reverse and the thump pad to balance. Every button interaction is instantaneous and the thump pad is an excellent fulcrum to the bike’s desire to crash at any given second. Sadly the touch pad doesn’t offer anything in the main game aside from a running tally of your score, money and time, but it gets a bit of love on the main menu and in the track editor.
Wait, did you say track editor?
I did. Long-time, creative fans of the series will be happy to hear that an extensive, 3DS-exclusive course creator is here. It allows for a ton of different obstacle combinations, greatly enhancing the game’s replayability and offering an imaginative outlet for those inclined to go that route. It was more than I was expecting from the title given its price-tag, and ended up being one of its biggest selling points.
Urban Trial Freestyle won’t win any awards for graphical presentation, but its environments – the true star of the title – are represented well on the 3DS. The 3D effects are par for the course and its rock/punk soundtrack is well-tooled for the gameplay experience UTF offers.
How ’bout a summary?