Back in the days when indie games on Steam were young and full of promise, there was one game that all of my friends insisted I purchase: Trials 2: Second Edition. I was never one for motocross, and everything I’d heard about the game made it sound blisteringly difficult to control; but it looked a little like ExciteBike, and that was enough pique my curiosity. Between that and the peer pressure I’d received from other gamers, I finally gave in.

And I was really glad I did.

Trials 2 was hard to control, but by design, not discomfort. It was about master balance while making your way around some crazy obstacles, and no matter how hard it got, you never wanted to let a level beat you.

The game was popular enough to inspire a wave of similar games like Joe Danger and Bike Baron, but while other developers picked up the ball and ran with it, RedLynx decided to spend their time creating other fresh concepts like DrawRace 2 and Nutty Fluffies. Still, they haven’t been afraid to revisit the Trials franchise from time to time, and after spending some time with their next release, I can say that the mobile-exclusive Trials Frontiers will be well worth the wait.

Trials Frontier

Unlike past instances in the Trials franchise, Trials Frontiers seems to have been designed from the ground up for mobile devices. It also seems to have been designed from the ground up to be a free-to-play game. Don’t let that second part scare you, though – in our (admittedly brief) time with the game, we haven’t once felt pressured to cough up a bit of premium currency.

What the free-to-play design does mean, though, is that Frontiers is built with quick play sessions and additional frippery in mind. You won’t just be racing on tough tracks anymore; you’ll spend time between races upgrading your bike and talking to locals to undertake missions. These missions are what drive most of your racing in Trials Frontiers. One townsperson may want to be wooed by your skills and ask you to do three backflips on a certain track. Another may ask you to earn a certain amount of coins in a single run. These missions help to provide fresh goals on every play, allowing you to revisit old tracks with new objectives in mind.

Trials Frontier

The missions also do a lot to add to the game’s flavor. Each person in town has a unique personality and some great character art, leading to one of those rare gaming experiences where you’re as charmed by the in-between elements as you are the actual gameplay. And the gameplay itself is nice and tight – this is still the same Trials experience you know and love, but it trades some of its infamous difficulty in for shorter stages with mission-based objectives (at least in the earlier stages that we’ve played through). It may sound like a crummy trade off to series veterans, but considering the more casual nature of mobile play, it’s a move that makes a lot of sense.

Trials Frontier will be available globally sometime in early 2014, but if you live in Canada or Finland, you can get an early taste of the game in its iTunes soft-launch period right now. Stay tuned to Gamezebo for additional Trials Frontier goodness as the game nears its international launch early next year.