The Road To Completion #1 – Urban Trial Freestyle (PS Vita)

About the game

Urban Trial Freestyle is a game by a Poland-based (yay!) developer, Tate Interactive. It’s a 2D racing/platformer that was originally published on PlayStation 3 and ported later to PS Vita, 3DS and, most recently, to PC on Steam. Through 5 environments, each consisting of 8 stages, the player competes in time trials (Time Attack Mode) and acrobatic challenges (Stunt Mode) on a customizable trial bike. The idea is simple – get to the finish line as fast as possible or get as many stunt points as possible. However, doing that is not always that easy.

Choose the best combination for a given event to get the fastest time or the highest trick score
Choose the best combination for a given event to get the fastest time or the highest trick score

The player finds money bags placed throughout the stages that can be used to upgrade the bike and to buy pieces of clothing. The former changes the three properties of the bike – max speed, acceleration and handling. The latter only changes the look of the biker and has no influence on the gameplay, but hey, riding a bike and doing backflips without a helmet is simply irresponsible.

It’s very easy to reach the end of each of the stages but the real challenge comes with getting all five stars . The stars are awarded for exceeding certain point and time thresholds in both game modes. A proper combination of tires, engine and chassis is required to outfit the bike according to what the stage requires. High top speed and acceleration help during time trials but don’t even try to beat the stunt mode without improved handling. This adds to the game’s replayability since you need the money to buy new parts which can only be obtained by moving forward. It usually took me several tries to max out the stage but a couple of them kept me playing for literally hours before I got that final star.

The extra challenges don't add much to the game
The extra challenges don’t add much to the game

In addition to the time trial and stunt stage the game offers five additional mini-game challenges. Use explosive charges to jump as far as possible, ride a rolling barrel as long as possible, collect items and multipliers to maximize your score, and the like. One of the challenges uses the Vita’s accelerometer to change the gravity in the game. While the additional content is interesting, I spent most of the time trying to beat the main stages of the game. The extra challenges would be more appealing for players who like to compete with their friends through online leaderboards. They are the only pseudo-multiplayer component in the game other than ‘ghost’ riders in time trial stages showing the best bikers’ playthrough.

This happens more often than you'd like
This happens more often than you’d like

The visuals of the game are limited in comparison with the PS3 version but this also makes the environment less distracting. Patrol cars and policemen trying to stop you or choppers flying above the biker would make it harder to concentrate on the stunts that need to be timed perfectly to get a satisfactory number of points. I played almost exclusively with the audio turned down, choosing to listen to podcasts or music instead. The whir of the engine and the occasional lines that the biker shouts after particularly good or bad stunts get repetitive after a while. Also, no audio means longer battery lifetime on the Vita.

The course design and the way the bikes control are what makes this great fun
The course design and the way the bike controls are what makes this game fun

What I really enjoyed about Urban Trial Freestyle is the way the bike handles throughout the changing environments. The controls are very sensitive. You need to be very careful pulling the analog stick to perform a wheelie not to overdo it and make a backflip to the ground. The developer put much effort to reproduce how freestyle trial looks and feels like (check out this cool behind the scenes video) and it worked very well. The difficulty of the stages increases gradually. While it’s relatively easy to get good scores on the early tracks with a random bike and decent stunt execution, the game becomes unforgiving later on. Fortunately, the learning curve is well balanced and by the time those later stages come, the player feels how to position the bike in order to improve.

Trophies

There are only twelve trophies in the game (1trophy_gold 4trophy_silver 7trophy_bronze, amounting to 315 points), most of which will be unlocked by simply completing all the stages in the game, regardless of the score. As usual, the ‘completionist’ trophies are where the most fun and frustration is.

Story-related trophies

utf_trophy_001 trophy_silver Rise to the Challenge
utf_trophy_007 trophy_bronze Free Spirit
Complete all Challenges Complete all tracks in Downtown Area
utf_trophy_012 trophy_bronze Ripping up the Suburbs
utf_trophy_008 trophy_bronze Conquering the depths
Complete all tracks in Outskirts Area Complete all tracks in Underground Area
utf_trophy_006 trophy_bronze Warehouse Wasteland
utf_trophy_004 trophy_bronze The Great Getaway
Complete all tracks in Industrial Area Complete all tracks in Train Depot Area

You get those trophies for simply finishing the main game stages and the additional challenges. The score is not important at all. What is more, I got the Rise to the Challenge trophy, even though I failed to reach the finish line of the final challenge within the time limit. Getting those trophies shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours. Just ride forward and don’t stop.

Special trophies

utf_trophy_003 trophy_silver Rough n’ tough
utf_trophy_005 trophy_bronze Piece of cake
Finish any track using only acceleration and brake Complete a track without crashing
utf_trophy_009 trophy_silver Twist again
utf_trophy_011 trophy_bronze Mayhem
Make 500 flips total Crash 100 times

The special trophies should come naturally while moving through the game, especially while trying to max out the stars. I had to go back to one of the early tracks to get the Rough n’ tough trophy but that wasn’t really a challenge. The jumps don’t require you to balance with the left analog stick so just ride slowly but surely toward the finish line.

Completionist trophies

utf_trophy_002 trophy_gold It’s a lifestyle
utf_trophy_010 trophy_silver Streets paved with gold
Set a 5 star rank in every level Find all the cash lying on the tracks

‘My God, it’s full of stars’. Moving through the game I got the 5 star rank easily in some of the stages, in others I got only four but thought that those 500 extra points / 5 seconds less won’t be a problem. In most of the cases it wasn’t but there were two stages in particular where I got stuck for literally two-three hours each. I’m talking about Oil Nightmare and The Getaway. Highest Jump? Longest Jump? Not a problem! What?! Only 1100 points for that? It can’t be done better! Well, it turns out it can but it requires the player to use the environment wisely. It’s not enough to simply ride down the ramp and jump. Get some speed by jumping up or doing a 360 on the platforms before attempting those stunts. Remember to improve the handling of the bike in stages with flip stunts.

Points are deducted for checkpoint restarts and added for finishing the course as fast as possible. This means that the 5 star playthrough has to be flawless. A common scenario: Precision – 1960 points, yes! Flip count – 1890 points, YES! Longest Jump – crash, crash, burn, NOOOO! Menu, restart track. Just one more time, just one more… Even though a complete wast of valuable time, the completionist in me felt great when the magic threshold of 10500 points had finally been broken on those two stages.

The money bags are sometimes hidden in the stages. The player needs to backtrack, destroy a part of the environment to reach a secret location or perform a difficult stunt. Most of them, with the exception of one or two, can easily be found but getting to them may prove more difficult. Overall, this trophy is much easier than the 5 star one and with the help of some online guides can be unlocked without significant problems.

Final thoughts

I spend all my money on outfits and bikes and I'm left with a frown and a goose egg on my balance
I spend all my money on outfits and bikes and I’m left with a frown and a goose egg on my balance

Urban Trial Freestyle is one of those games that is perfect for a handheld experience. It can be consumed in short bursts by playing one or two stages on a train to work or in a private place after breakfast. The in-game billboards with images of friends, which can easily be taken with the Vita camera, are a nice feature for the competitive players. The stages vary from underground sewers to riding on a moving train and are challenging but, mostly, not to the point of frustration. The graphics, although limited when compared to the PS3 version, look nice, if sometimes too bland, color-wise. The environments are dynamic with explosions and falling debris. Even though it usually doesn’t affect the player, it’s a nice touch. The in-game sound is repetitive and forgettable and can be substituted by other sources. It’s a great game for the 100% gamer with the challenging stages begging you to come back and try and fail and try again.

Final score:

utf_score

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