This review based on a 3DS download copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Urban Trial Freestyle is a nice surprise on the 3DS, managing to stay off of the radar until this week's launch and then, boom, it goes and delivers a solid, fun, affordable racing game that's as exciting to play as it is challenging to master.
I should probably start off by saying that I originally played Urban Trial Freestyle back when it launched for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. When I first booted up this latest version of Tate Interactive's motorbike-infused racer, I assumed I'd be tackling the exact same tracks, only with less flash and a third dimension thrown in for good measure.
Okay, so, no, the 3DS version of UTF doesn't look as crisp as its other-console counterparts and, no, the levels aren't as dynamic as in other versions. But that doesn't mean that the 3DS version of the game isn't worth checking out, especially considering the fact that what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in new content and a handful of improvements.
If you've already played UTF on Sony's consoles and enjoyed it, then the 3DS version of the game is definitely worth an investment. Not only is it a bit cheaper ($6.99 regular and $5.59 on discount through July 4), but the levels are actually different than in the previous offerings. While the backgrounds and some of the major set pieces are the same, everything else has been remixed, offering brand new races you can't find elsewhere.
The single player campaign is broken down into six main areas, each with four tracks to tackle in a Time Attack mode. A Stunt mode of each track is also available, further retooling the levels to task the player with landing precise jumps, hitting a checkpoint at a high speed, pulling off the craziest flips, etc.
Putting comparisons to previous versions of the game aside, UTF looks great on Nintendo's handheld and makes good use of the 3D. The levels are still decently dynamic, meaning that the occasional rolling boulder, falling semi trailer and collapsing bridge will catch you off guard. It's nice to look at and, for the most part, the tracks stand out nicely from the background.
As for the the levels themselves, we're looking at a nice collection of creative tracks offering loads of variety, exciting jumps, breakneck downhills and more than enough objects to maneuver your bike around. Urban Trial Freestyle takes its namesake to ridiculous heights, tasking the player with leaping through spinning art installments, narrowly diving through concrete tunnels, flipping off of massive ramps and occasionally getting catapulted through the air by a conveniently placed launcher. It's over the top and exhilarating, especially once you get the hang of the controls.
Speaking of the controls, the 3DS version of UTF is as tight as you would hope in a game all about precision, with the only major difference being that there's a little more forgiveness when it comes to gassing it or hitting the brake a little too hard. I dumped myself off of the bike far fewer times in this version of the game, which is definately a plus in my book.
For newcomers to the series, it's important to remember that keeping your thumb pressed down on the gas isn't always the best tactic. As I said above, this game is all about precision, figuring out the best speed to hit a ramp, the sweet spot for a landing or how high you need the front of the bike raised to get over a set of obstacles. It can be tricky at first but, once you get into a groove, controlling the bike becomes a real joy. Just do yourself a favor and buy a decent engine once you rake in a few thousand dollars (Found in money bags spread throughout each level). That extra bit of muscle will make tackling some of the steeper climbs a heck of a lot easier, alleviating some of the early-game frustrations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the more creative types in the audience, there's the inclusion of an exclusive track editor mode. You can pick from a wide variety of setting templates, then go to town fine-tuning the course to your liking. There's a massive number of object to utilize and a side view of the level editor on the lower screen makes placement of the various components a snap. My only gripe is that there's no way to share these courses online, but at least the feature is packed in for those who want to make some of their own challenging courses.
Urban Trial Freestyle debut on the 3DS caught me off guard. Not only does it offer new content, but controlling the bike is just as much fun as it has ever been. There are a handful of customization options for your avatar and, most importantly, you can finagle the bike's tires, body and engine to create a machine best suited to tackle each of the 40-plus levels.
Sure, the menus could be a little more intuitive, some of the courses are pretty dang short and I certainly wouldn't have minded more tracks, but what's offered is fair and extremely entertaining.
If you're looking for a fast racer that rewards precision and practice, you need look no further than Urban Trial Freestyle.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS