Trials of the Blood Dragon is the illegitimate offspring of bike-riding platformer Trials and the neon-soaked FPS Far Cry: Blood Dragon.
As you’d expect it’s a hoot. In places, anyway.
While Far Cry: Blood Dragon was an over-the-top and rather tongue-in-cheek salute to the action movie tropes of the 1980s. Trials of the Blood Dragon is more of a blend of game ideas dressed up in Blood Dragon’s retro aesthetic.
When it works, it works well. But when it doesn’t, it’ll make you want to punch something. Sadly, it’s rather inconsistent on both counts.
Trials of the Blood Dragon Review: Plot & Structure
The game is set years after the events of Blood Dragon, and the story goes that Rex “Power” Colt is dead (or is he?) after attempting to fight Vietnam War 4 on his own. Now it’s up to his kids, Slayter and Roxanne (who the player controls) to save the day in a time of crisis.
Players will spend the lion’s share of the game controlling these two characters, performing a balancing act a-la Trials at times, and running through side-scrolling platformer levels at others.
The bike riding sections are easily the most fun; the levels are big and varied, and the explosions and background action Trials fans have come to know and love have been ramped up to insane levels. The side-scrolling platformer levels, however, are a massive pain.
Players need to be aware of this before they stump up their cash. If you’re basically expecting a Trials game with a new coat of paint you’ll be slightly disappointed. If you aren’t a massive fan of platform game you’ll also be disappointed. Trials Of The Blood Dragon is essentially a platform game intercut with a few Trials levels. That’s it.
Trials of the Blood Dragon Review: Design
Some levels combine the two structures; you’ll ride your bike to a building, hop out to flip a switch or hack a computer, and either return to your bike to finish the level or finish by completing an objective inside the side-scrolling area.
It’s a little jarring, made worse by awful controls for the platforming sections. You almost have to re-wire your brain every time the action changes mode, and it’ll be reflected in your success rate. It certainly was in mine.
Other levels are pure platforming. To the designers’ credit there’s a lot of variation to those levels. Some are shooting galleries, while others contain in-level objectives; one had me escorting a bomb that didn’t like bumps to its destination. The most outlandish levels had me using a jetpack to guide myself through an alien ship.
Full confession: I am not a fan of platform games, so I didn’t enjoy these levels? However, this was also due in part to some awful jumping sections, the worst of which featured laser walls and awkwardly-placed platforms that greeted my every attempt with death.
Other levels are pure Trials goodness, especially as the developers threw in some variation by providing several multi-wheeled vehicles to control through some outlandish environments, and some truly whacky level design.
Early in the game I had a blast controlling Roxanne as she made her way through a mine in a mine cart; the level tasked me with traversing some really dangerous areas, making sure my timing and balance was just right to successfully complete it.
The platforming level that awaited me on completion of the mine level, meanwhile… ugh.
Trials of the Blood Dragon Review: Trial & error
As is the case with all Trials titles, trial and error is very much the order of the day here. Players have myriad opportunities to fail; they’re punished for crashing, being riddled with bullets, failing time trials and falling to their deaths. They’re graded for every level as well, with points deducted for failing – I won’t tell you what my average grade was.
The developers don’t make it easy; there are some devilishly difficult sections in both modes that’ll have players attempting them over and over and over again.
After quite a bit of perseverance – which I suspect is integral to anyone’s enjoyment of this sort of game – it was quite satisfying to get things just right. But I was never convinced that the satisfaction was worth the effort, as there was no real pay-off apart from the cartoony cutscenes and the bizarre live-action 80s-era ads that played between missions.
Trials of the Blood Dragon Review: Conclusion
I appreciated Trials of the Blood Dragon more than I enjoyed it. I liked that the developers tried mashing two different games together into a new format, I enjoyed the over-the-top setting and the neon-tinged 1980s aesthetic, and the soundtrack is rather cool if you like your tunes a little retro.
Ubisoft definitely deserves some credit for trying something new. I just wish the platforming parts were more enjoyable, and the game as a whole was as much fun as either of the games that inspired it. For the measly 149-buck asking price, though, Trials of the Blood Dragon will certainly entertain you for longer than the two 3D movies you could watch for the same price.
Trials of the Blood Dragon was reviewed on the Xbox One, but is also available for PC and PS4. Code supplied by the publisher. Get it here for R149.