Just so we're all on the same page from the start, Bravo Game Studios' Xtreme Wheels [$3.99] is whole heck of a lot like RedLynx's Trials series. Actually, it's almost identical, but while many have tried to bring the painfully difficult motocross physics-puzzle-style to iOS, Xtreme Wheels is probably the closest to getting it right.
If you've played Trials, you'll know what to expect from Xtreme Wheels and it gets the job done confidently enough. If you haven't, Xtreme Wheels is a physics based motrocross game that requires you to traverse an environment and get from one point of the map to the other by accelerating and leaning your character and bike in the correct directions to get through a series of obstacles.
That all sounds simple enough, but the joy (or rage) of Xtreme Wheels is in the fact you have to finesse your way up and over exploding barrels, ninety-degree walls and across tiny platforms. Like its pedigree, this isn't a game for the faint of heart and while the first few levels are far too easy, the last ten are truly a pain to get through.
The goal of each track is to get through it alive once, then to head back and improve your time. You'll receive medal awards based on your time and the number of crashes. Usually, you'd spend your time beating friend's scores on the leaderboards, but right now the Game Center boards are pretty screwed up, with the top times listed as zero. For this type of game, fixing this needs to be on the top of Bravo's to-do list.
You'll have four different control schemes at your disposal, two styles of analog sliders, a digital pad and tilt controls. For the most part, the analog slider is going to be the go-to for Trials fans, but newcomers might find the other controls more to their liking.
Whichever control scheme you chose, you'll be rolling with it over the course of 25 levels in five themed areas. Again, if you played Trials, you know what to expect here -- the level progression, although a bit slow at first, ramps up considerably and awkwardly at the mid-point (like Trials, actually). If you haven't played a game like this before, you're going to run into some serious trouble early on because the game doesn't do a particularly good job of teaching you how to play it. Simple things like bunny-hops are going to frustrate newcomers pretty quickly and even old hands will have a little trouble getting the hang of them with the control schemes.
That actually brings up one of the problems with Xtreme Wheels, the physics are a little loose compared to the responsiveness of the controls and since the level design facilitates some ridiculous situations, the physics don't always respond as you'd expect. It's only jarring because the controls are so reactive, your character will lean and move exactly as you'd anticipate, but the bike doesn't always respond. Then again, that might simply be the sixty-plus hours I've poured into Trials HD tainting my view a little.
One of the other major problems comes in the form of framerate hiccups. Both on a 3GS and an original iPad the game has serious slowdown after explosions and in some of the more complex areas. This isn't a good thing in this type of game and it's almost impossible to recover from. There are a ton of checkpoints throughout each level to keep this from being too aggravating, but for those looking to go gold on every level it'll only make the game even harder. The same goes for your inevitable fail animations, which seem to drag on as the system stutters.
From early screenshots, the game looked like it was going to be a real stunner. The environments hold up to the screenshots and look great, but the animation on the rider is a little stiff. This only matters because your rider's position is key to getting through tougher parts and it's occasionally a little difficult to figure out exactly where he's positioned. Of course, I'd have preferred a steady framerate over fancy visuals any day, so we'll see if they can scale the graphics down to add some smoothness in the future.
Despite those flaws, the game is a faithful rendition of a Trials-style game, but it would have been nice to see a little more innovation in the environmental art or at least more of its own style instead of a nearly direct clone of Trials. Even still, if they can get the framerate up, it'll be one of the better renditions on the App Store, even if it's lacking it's own constitution.
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