Trials of the Blood Dragon, launched without any pre-release campaign whatsoever in order for Ubisoft to have an "It's out now" moment at E3, is a strange beast. At points it's classic Trials, with insane levels and precision bike control; at other points it's awful, more on par with user-created content that you might acknowledge as 'neat' before never wanting to play it again. This is Trials but with guns and sometimes no vehicle at all. Bizarre!
If you're familiar with Trials, the most recent being Trials Fusion and its abundance of DLC, Blood Dragon does things differently. This is a story-based campaign game, so each stage is linked by what is intended to be a humours 80s sci-fi action movie tale that is linked to Far Cry Blood Dragon. Sadly it's not funny in the slightest. There's also chatter during gameplay, but this is mostly banal witterings that will make you wish for the blissful silence of the series' core levels.
You can't choose which bike you're using (the game putting you on a motorbike or a bicycle), and at times (more than you'll probably like) you are on foot. These sequences, in which you also shoot a gun with the right analogue stick, are poor. The jumping feels wrong (floaty and imprecise – completely at odds with the fine-tuned bike controls) and the combat is simplistic, which isn't a surprise given that the engine has been designed for skill-based bike control. The sooner these sequences are over, the better. There are also some awful jetpack sections, again proving that developer RedLynx should have stuck to bikes and other vehicles.
The addition of a grappling hook is more of a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment, with some stages making great use of it while others become frustrating tests of endurance, not tests of skill. Trials of the Blood Dragon doesn't do much to make you want to compete for better performances, so it's likely you'll just want to finish each stage and move on – which is a ridiculous state of affairs given what the entire franchise has been built on.
Vehicles such as mine carts, something like resembles Mass Effect's Mako, and a flippable RC car are perfectly fine additions, but none offer much depth in terms of control – not that the stages themselves are particularly challenging. If you're hoping for some proper belters to test your skills, you're going to be disappointed, big time. Of course, the most skillful players will find themselves at the top of the leaderboards for what's here, but there's nothing you'll struggle to beat.
Trials has never been a game anyone would describe as pretty, although it has its moments during some of the crazier drops. Trials of the Blood Dragon runs the complete gamut, from ugly mess to impressive spectacle. On-foot stages, perhaps due to their more plodding nature, are some of the worst, while levels in which there's a lot going on all around you can't help but dazzle your eyes. The game's main menu, though, is a complete abomination, being both aesthetically hideous and functionally a mess.
Without delivering the desire to improve your performances, Trials of the Blood Dragon's main hook beyond the conclusion to the fairly brief campaign is collectables. There's a whole sticker book to fill and keys to find if you're into that sort of thing. You'll probably have to be in order to get the most from the game's £11.99 price tag.
When Trials of the Blood Dragon is just trying to be a more accessible, over-the-top and explosive sequence of Trials stages it's perfectly enjoyable. Sadly there's other stuff that gets in the way of that. In the end this feels like an attempt to sell Trials to new players, but newcomers aren't going to learn what makes the core games so much fun and old-timers will be wondering what is going on.