Why critics and players disagree about Trials Frontier

Trials Frontier is yet another example of a game that critics hate and the public love. From Farmville to Candy Crush Saga and Real Racing 3, we’re seeing a growing rift opening up between games critics and people who play the games. What’s going on?

With over 6 million downloads and a user rating of 4.5 stars, people clearly like Trials Frontier, but it has an average score of 3/5 on Metacritic, and many of the worst reviews are from the most trusted and established games sites.

So who’s actually playing?

The problem is that many critics no longer reflect the audience for casual games. Games in general have a much wider audience than they once did, but critics tend to be gamers, and have different criteria for judging a game. Certainly, critics seem much more concerned about in-game purchases than players, as seen by the incredible success of Real Racing 3.

I’ve played Trials Frontier, and to be honest, I agree with the poor reviews. The controls are imprecise, the levels are not challenging enough, and the free-to-play model gets in the way of the game. Moreover, it compares really badly to the console and PC versions, which were great examples of tough-but-fair games. But actually, isn’t it unfair of me to judge the mobile game against its big brothers? Trials Frontier isn’t supposed to be the same game.

Casual games vs. gamer’s games

This is probably the issue. Most games critics play a lot of games – they have to – but casual games are not made just for ‘gamers’. They’re for anyone who likes something fun to pass the time while they’re traveling or have a spare five minutes. I don’t think many critics review them like that.

Unlike ‘traditional’ video games, you’re not supposed to sit down for a five hour marathon. That’s not to say that gamers can’t enjoy casual games: they can and certainly do, but casual games shouldn’t really be judged with the same criteria as console and other games. They they should be judged for what they are: casual games.

In the world of books and music, there are lots of examples of stuff that is popular but not very good. Trials Frontier, like Farmville, is probably good for what it is. What it boils down to is that we need a fresh perspective when it comes to judging casual games.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathanriggall

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