Trials of the Blood Dragon Review
What happens when you cross a dirt bike physics puzzler with a Far Cry 3 mod inspired by SEGA Genesis era action games? You get Trials of the Blood Dragon, and the result is not pretty. It's as if the developers weren't quite sure how to combine the two games, and so they went ahead and stuck every idea they had into the game without taking time to fully develop any of the ideas or to connect them into any sort of cohesive experience.
I'll start with the one thing the game did get right, and that's the story and presentation. It takes the 80s action movie/game parody of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and kicks it into overdrive while wrapping everything in the purple and pink hues of 16-bit era graphics. I won't go into the story's details here because it's intentionally ludicrous to the point that it defies any kind of cohesive synopsis. Let's just say that you play as a pair of teenaged siblings called on to save America on their own and leave it at that.
The Trials inspired gameplay sections put you on a dirt bike and challenge you to navigate slopes, jumps, and obstacles while avoiding crashing your bike. Now these sections aren't action sequences in the strictest sense, but rather a series of short obstacle-based puzzle-platformer sequences punctuated at each step along the way with a checkpoint. And these sequences are less designed to be a simulation of dirt bike physics and mechanics and more so as a test of how well you can adapt to the vision of reality put forth by the game's very loose interpretation of the real-world physics of dirt bike riding. Things tend to resemble what you'd see dirt biking on a planet smaller than are own and with a thinner atmosphere, and it both takes some getting used to and tests your ability to deal with frustration. You'll crash often because the game is designed to make that happen to you and because you won't be able to see each stretch of track until you are already on it. You'll crash, the game will insult you, and then you'll reappear at the last checkpoint to give it another go. Some will love this style of gameplay, some will hate it. I found myself oscillating between the two camps with regularity.
Interspersed with this dirt bike puzzle-platformer gameplay are side-scrolling action sequences that take you off your bike and onto your feet and put a gun in your hand. These sections feel like they were lifted from a twenty year old bargain bin game and are about as fun to play in this game as they were in those. The jump mechanics are loose and floaty, the stealth aspects are primitive and tedious, and the twin-stick style shooting is clunky. It didn't take long for me to dread the inevitable reappearance of one of these shooter segments of a level.
Adding to the variety - I should add, a variety that makes the game feel more like a disjoint collection of mini games than a cohesive whole - are sequences that have you driving a tank, piloting a jet pack (with the physics also drawn from some sort of other world/alternate universe), or driving an RC car through loop-heavy tracks. There's a decided lack of cohesion to it all - a slapdash, mismatched, patchwork quilt of ideas that often don't work on their own and certainly don't work well together.
The game also spends some time mucking with its strongest component, the dirt bike sequences, by adding new elements to it as you progress through the game. Some of them work - grappling hooks - and some of them don't - shooting while trying to keep your bike from inverting on you - but they seem to be applied in the same haphazard way that the other gameplay elements were added. I can't help but think that if the game's developers had put their focus entirely on its strong suit and then spent time properly developing its progression over the course of the campaign that the result would have been a more enjoyable game in the end. As it is, though, the game simply isn't that much fun to play.
Final Rating: 55% - Making your way through this slapdash game is a trial.