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Urban Trial Freestyle review: Look familiar?

No prizes for guessing what this game is imitating, but it does hold some surprises

Let's get the obvious out of the way - Urban Trial Freestyle is a shameless imitation of Trials Evolution and its predecessor Trials HD. Of course, Ubisoft wouldn't exactly have a leg to stand on if it tried to do anything about it, since Trials itself was 'inspired' by the likes of Elastomania, Motorcross Maniacs and Kikstart 2, but there's no denying what the main source of inspiration was here.

Once you get over developer Tate Interactive's sheer lack of subtlety though and judge the game on its own merit, the real surprise is that Urban Trial Freestyle is actually a decent game. Rather than a half-hearted rip-off of an already popular title, it's clear that Tate Interactive has dedicated proper care and attention to this during its development, to the extent that we'd happily recommend it as an adequate (if not perfect) alternative for PS3 and Vita owners who can't get the Xbox-exclusive Trials games on their own systems.

The aim, naturally, is to get through a variety of side-scrolling obstacles and ramp-filled stages while riding a motorbike. The key to success is pressing left and right to shift your weight on the bike forward and back, influencing the way you climb ramps and land from jumps. If your rider hits an obstacle - be it the ground, a ramp or a low-hanging roof or decoration - then they'll fall off their bike, ragdoll physics will kick in and you'll have to restart from the last checkpoint you hit. Just like Trials, then.

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It's not a complete carbon copy, however - there are some differences. For starters, there are two different types of 'trial'. There's your standard time trial, where you race to finish the track in the fastest time (the game automatically downloads a ghost of the best racer so you can see how it's done). Then there's the stunt trials, where each track has between three and five different stunt stations scoring you on a certain ability - the most flips, the highest or longest jump, the fastest speed you can travel past a set point, the most accurate landing on a tiny target - before adding up all your scores for a track total.

The stunt trials are interesting, and not just because they tinker with the traditional Trials format. As you approach each stunt station you can see a big video screen in the background naming the player who currently holds the highest score in that particular stuny, along with a big picture of their avatar. It's a little detail but a clever one, because the knowledge that you can actually be part of the level design if you're good enough offers great encouragement to keep trying or return later with a more powerful bike. It's especially entertaining on the Vita version, as you're asked to take a (optional) photo of yourself on the main menu, which is then used in the high score walls.

The tracks themselves aren't perfectly designed but the background details are at times fantastic (at least on the PS3 version - much of it is removed from the Vita version to keep things running smoothly). You'll be riding through police shootouts (with characters rolling in front of your path), dodging giant clowns' eyeballs, zipping through a ghost train, hopping over a giant golf ball, jumping through the middle of a massive rotating statue - and that's all just in one level.

Elsewhere there are exploding helicopters, slow motion leaps through office buildings, speeding trains used as jumps, picnicking couples who dive out of the way as you zoom past them... hats off to the developers, who could have easily made this a bog-standard Trials clone with generic tracks but chose not to.

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