Thursday, April 5

Review: Urban Trial Playground [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While straight racing games in a few different flavors are reasonably well-represented on the Switch at this point, technical racers have yet to really arrive. Focused more on precision and technique over a short distance these require a different set of skills to master. Urban Trial Playground, not to be mistaken for belonging to the long-running Trials series, takes its challenges to the streets of what appears to be California and generally struggles to stay on course.

Over the course of its more than 50 levels you’ll be tasked with either trying to complete the course with a fast time or accumulating a high score by doing “stunts”. For the most part speed is all about making clean landings by managing the angle you land at, doing consistent wheelies to keep your speed up, and always avoiding falls. I put quotes around stunts because I think the word implies far more than you have available in this particular game. You’re able to do front and back flips, wheelies, and stoppies (wheelies on your front wheel) and that’s it. There’s certainly a level of technique involved in pulling a flip off from most spots, mostly revolving around properly charging your jump by holding down and then pushing up at the right moment, but to have no other options in courses where you need to run up a score makes it all pretty repetitive. Without more variety you’re really looking at trying to chain tricks together to be successful but while it can be challenging that really cuts into it being fun.

To try to keep things a bit more interesting there are challenges layered on top of each course’s main objective. While some of these are as straightforward as completing the course without falling there are more demanding ones like performing a certain number of front flips on the course. Completing these will help you accumulate in-game currency that can be used to customize your rider visually or, more importantly, enhance your bike. The other opportunity to get money comes in the form of 3 chips that are hidden within each level, sometimes requiring you to make a really high jump, but many times hidden underneath jumps and other spots you’d typically fly right by. These added elements do at least add some variety and, if you want to be more successful, will give you a good reason to return to each level multiple times to try to get everything.

Cosmetic customization is pretty limited for both your rider and your bike, though at least it’s generally not terribly expensive. What you’ll really want to spend your money on is enhancements that will improve your bike’s performance. These will make completing courses and objectives, as well as getting tricky chips, a bit easier as you’ll get faster and more responsive. There is an option to play locally with a friend but while there are a few flavors that show some effort in general they’re a side attraction at best.

Overall, though the lack of competition in this specific space give Urban Trial Playground some appeal be warned that its a relatively lackluster affair. With courses that never really get very technical it lacks a satisfying challenge on that level and the general lack of variety in stunts fails to scratch that itch as well. What remains is a collection of courses for you to clear with gameplay that quickly becomes repetitive and a bit dull. It can make you work hard to be successful, and force you to repeat the same course multiple times to work out the kinks, but without room for much variety its sadly lacking in fun.

Score: 6

  • Objectives and chips for each level encourage you to go back and try them again
  • Bike upgrades help you feel more capable as you go

  • A lack of variety and inevitable repetition
  • In terms of controls the execution on boosting your jump can feel inconsistent at times
  • Occasional crash issues