As a sort-of sequel to the well-received Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Trials of the Blood Dragon is a weird proposition. Outside of being announced and released on the same day as Ubisoft’s E3 conference, Trials of the Blood Dragon looks to take the very specific physics-based motorcycle fun of the Trials series and inject it with a big fat dose of story. An 80s pop-culture obsessed action spectacle where communist aliens from Mars pop up at a random point, America is the world’s go-to guy for freedom, and bright fluro-headbands and neon lighting are the order of the day. And with a soundtrack packed to the brim with neon-lit synthesisers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the whole affair is presented through the lens of an Adobe After Effects VHS-filter.
Right of the bat it should be made clear that Trials of the Blood Dragon is strictly a single-player story-driven game. Each level is introduced via an animated sequence whilst also being peppered with dialogue between the main characters from beginning to end. For a game in the Trials series it’s kind of a big ask to be suddenly inundated with story, and with no multiplayer or online component outside of leader boards, you’ll quickly begin to wonder what kind of story requires driving a dirt bike through obstacles in order to save the world. Turns out not much of a story, and one that is equally forgettable as it is overstuffed with nods to '80s and early '90s pop culture. We could talk about how it ties to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, with players taking control of the protagonist in that game’s children in a fight against the commies. But really, there isn’t much to it.
Outside of a thin narrative the level design is actually pretty good for the most part. At this point developer RedLynx are somewhat masters at creating fun and varied dirt bike tracks to master, but with the introduction of on-foot missions, jet-pack sections, and remote control cars Trials of the Blood Dragon stumbles a lot more than it should. These levels which feel like extensions of the mini-games and player created content seen in earlier Trials, are a mixed-bag at best. The jet-pack stuff is fun in the way the physics seem to defy all sense of normal gravitational momentum and the remote control car sections are inspired in their dual-direction obstacle course-like approach. But in the case of the on-foot stuff, that mixed bag may as well be a bag of, well, you know what.
On paper the on-foot missions sound like something you might find in the excellent Shadow Complex. Platforming, twin-stick shooting, with a dash of light-stealth. In execution however, Trials of the Blood Dragon’s on-foot missions are pretty dire. The jump mechanics are floaty at the best of times, which hampers the shooting parts, and the stealth portions are limited to dodging lights. Whilst floating around. It’s a shame because the Trials franchise is somewhat known for mixing it up with fun mini-games that break from the norm, and a large online community creating a number of fun and crazy modes that make the most of the series’ excellent and very specific physics.
But as loud, brash, and in your face Trials of the Blood Dragon is, it’s all over after a few hours. So it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Which is about the highest praise you can assign to this oddity. Part ‘80s love letter, part Trials game, part mash-up of new and mostly terrible play styles.