I hadn’t played Trials HD for quite a while prior to the release of this DLC pack, in part of course because I’ve been busy with other games, but also because I had gone about as far as I could ever hope to get with the original game. The compulsion to unlock new and increasingly difficult levels really is what makes Trials HD a superb XBLA title. It’s also its major weakness, because whilst there’s a fair amount of content to the game, the bulk of it can be completed within a couple of hours and thereafter Trials HD doesn’t have much left to offer most people. If you found yourself in this position then Trails HD - Big Pack may be just what you’re after. It introduces new physics objects and some fixes to old issues, but at its core this is a level pack; perfect for those who loved the game but simply craved more content.
A total of 35 new levels should make Big Pack nothing short of a stellar addition to Trials HD. Unfortunately, as with many things, take a short look at the small print and it’s not quite all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first, and then I’ll come on to the positives in a bit.
The main issue with Big Pack revolves around the additional skill games. Of the 35 levels added by this DLC, 12 of those are new skill games; a healthy balance you might think. However, these are not actually wholly original skill games. Rather, they’re just adaptations on the existing skill games – a new setting for the original versions of bomb carrying and bone breaking, for example. Really, they offer little new, and if you’ve already completed Trials HD then you’ll rattle through them and probably only play them once each.
With 12 of the 35 new levels being taken up with mostly rehashed skill games, that leaves 23 brand new racing tracks, and leads us neatly away from the negatives of Big Pack and onto the positives. These new tracks are all unique and original, covering the medium, hard and extreme difficulties. As the press release notes, this is the ‘sweet-spot of track difficulty’, the kind of levels that really hook you in and compel you to keep playing, so it’s great to have access to more of these.
The new tracks aren’t just rehashes of old ones like the skills games either, much more thought and effort has been put into evolving the game and introducing new gameplay mechanics here. The new physics play a large role in this respect, as objects like wind turbines, cars, monster trucks, trampolines and gravity fields all mix the levels up, making Big Pack a much fresher experience than it would otherwise have been. All of these new objects are available in the level editor as well, so you can use them in your own custom tracks. It’s just a shame they weren’t utilised in the ‘new’ skill maps at all.
Just as you begin to find the levels repetitive, Big Pack unexpectedly introduces something you haven’t experienced before – often something a little bit quirky and unusual for the series. Take for example the introduction of gravity fields and wind turbines, which have you floating around levels trying to balance your bike in slow-motion whilst adjusting to the new gameplay mechanics this introduces. In another level the introduction of trampoline-like springboards brings a little taste of the skill games to the main tracks as your bike is catapulted around the level.
The presentation hasn’t been left lagging behind either. New environmental designs have been introduced to compliment some of the more unique levels in Big Pack. Take the aforementioned low gravity/wind turbine levels, these are given a great sci-fi feel thanks to the use of metallic features and chrome colour schemes, it’s almost like negotiating your way through a space station on a floating bike. My personal favourite, however, is the retro-inspired ‘1 Bit Trip’ level. If you can imagine the platformer N+ with a neon green backdrop and a bike instead of a ninja then you’re just about there. This was my personal highlight of Big Pack - it’s a brilliant twist on the Trails HD formula and a great homage to some classic titles. It’s just a shame there’s only one level like it in the whole game.
Turning to value for money then, what do you get for your 400 MS Points ($5/£3.40)? There are the new maps – 12 skill games (although as I’ve already explained, these are for all intents and purposes the same as the old ones), 23 new racing tracks, as well as 5 new tournaments and 4 achievements worth 50 gamerscore. Finally, there are the new physics objects (all of which have been made available in the level editor) and a twinned title update which introduces a few tweaks and fixes. The new skill games aside, which is my one big gripe with Big Pack, this is a reasonable amount of content for 400 MS Points, although it will only take you an hour or two to work your way through most of it.
Trials HD - Big Pack is good, solid, unremarkable DLC. It’s not going to win any awards for revolutionising the concept of DLC or the way we look at it, but nor is that its intent. For fans of the main game this is likely to be exactly what you’re looking for – a package which includes new maps, gameplay objects, achievements and a handful of pleasant surprises and innovations. The new skill games are a major disappointment though, so if that’s what you’re primarily looking for in Big Pack then I strongly suggest you avoid this altogether, but for everyone else there’s bound to be something in here that will make a purchase worth your while.