Indie Review: baKno Games’ Motorbike For PlayStation 3
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Motorbikes are the bane of many parents’ existence. For kids, they’re the epitome of badassery, perhaps best summed up by the scene in Terminator 2 where Arnie takes on the T-1000 on the back of a motorbike armed only with a shotgun, a leather jacket and some awkwardly wooden one-liners. But for many parents, their children just can’t see the danger of a motorbike, and the damage that they can cause if mishandled. Motorbike, a recently released PSN game by baKno Games, isn’t intended as a safety instructional experience, but the sheer number of bone-crunching and limb-bending accidents that occur within the game may just be enough to teach younger players the dangers of being on two wheels.
If you’ve played Trials HD, or any similar game before, you’ll be well aware of what’s required from you in Motorbike. Players guide a rider from left to right, overcoming obstacles, ramps and jumps along the way, controlling both the acceleration of the bike and the balance of the rider to avoid the bike crashing and the rider (seemingly) dying. Motorbike does a good job of ensuring that its controls are as inclusive as possible, meaning that those who prefer to use the analogue sticks and triggers can do so, or if you instead prefer the precision of the d-pad and the face buttons, you can use those as well. The number of buttons required is also very low, with an accelerate and brake button, the balancing of the rider resting on the up and right directional buttons, and a ‘self-destruct’ button (triangle) which restarts the course. is . The only issue here is that controls aren’t explained in-game, aside from on an all-too-quick loading screen, meaning that for the first few attempts, you’ll be hitting buttons randomly wondering which one does what. The game even has a number of tutorial levels explaining the basics of the obstacles you’ll be facing, but for some reason a brief outline of controls isn’t mentioned..
Unfortunately, Motorbike isn’t the prettiest of games, both in-game and in the menu screens. Starting up the game takes you to perhaps the most barren menu screen I’ve seen in recent years, an experience which is almost akin to what you’d find in a browser game. There’s no ‘retail game’ padding here, merely a menu from which you select your rider and bike (of which there are four options for the former, two for the latter, and only cosmetic changes for both), and a menu from where you select your course (along with seasons, which again, only makes cosmetic changes). There’s no real player individualisation, or sense of progression aside from completing each course one-by-one.
Once you get in-game, the feeling of Motorbike being ripped straight from your internet browser only increases. The visuals aren’t bad, and you can always see where you’re going, but the textures are noticeably pixilated, and trees (particularly on the spring levels), blow around as if they’re in a hurricane, whilst everything else on the course sits as still as if experiencing the gentlest of summer breezes. The audio is a similar mix of mediocrity, with the only positive aspect being the appropriately gruesome crunching sounds emerging from your rider’s body each time he takes a fall. The music in Motorbike is particularly guitar-heavy and rather repetitive, although the most disappointing aspect of the sound design as a whole is the motorbikes themselves. Engine noises are particularly weak, and almost sound as if they’re been recorded off of the television and then played back to you through the game.
The main aim of the gameplay in Motorbike is to make it from the left side of the course to the right side in the quickest amount of time possible, all without allowing your rider to touch the floor (which mainly occurs by flipping your bike). Preventing you from completing each track quickly and easily is a series of obstacles, ranging from physical objects (such as barrels, cars and tires) to bumps, ramps and even loops. Most of the levels only take a matter of seconds to get through if you manage to score a good run, but chances are each individual level will take you a lot longer to overcome. This is due to the fact that you will fall off of your bike and fail the level – a lot. When this happens, you’ll be sent back to the start of the level to try again, but this time with knowledge of what awaits you and (hopefully) the skills required to overcome it. To the game’s credit, there is a constant sense of frustration as you repeatedly fail on a particular section, but the enormous sense of achievement once you make it past a tricky obstacle far outweighs any lingering resentment towards a particular inanimate object placed in the game that you may feel.
Whilst the physics engine works well with regards to balancing your rider and the way your bike moves (which is important in making the game feel fair), there are issues within the game outside of direct gameplay that go a long way to breaking the immersion of the game. Falls are the main thing that you’ll notice, seeing as they happen so often, and even though they are highly amusing 90% of the time, they often result in your rider getting caught in the scenery and shaking around as if being electrocuted, or flying off into the sky as if shot from a cannon. Similarly (but not tied to the physics engine), in a game like this where you die so often, the time between failures and restarts should be as small as possible, if not instant, yet in Motorbike, you’ll stare at the TV for 5-10 seconds before the game puts you back at the start of the level. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re eager to get back on the bike and overcome your obstacles, it feels like an eternity. What’s more, I’ve never encountered a game that relies so heavily on a time-trial mechanic that keeps the clock ticking when you’re in the pause menu! If you get a phone call or even the slightest distraction mid-level, you may as well write off any particular attempt that you’re in the middle of, as there’s no way you’re beating your high score this time.
Despite its many flaws, Motorbike is a surprisingly good time if you can look past its blemishes. The game contains a fair dose of both frustration and elation, and although some of the animations are messy, you’ll spend a lot of time both laughing and wincing at your TV as your rider’s body does things that the human body shouldn’t be capable of doing. There’s also a lot of content here, with 80 levels in the Original mode and countless others in the Online mode, some levels made by baKno Games themselves and some made by players. If Motorbike could be compared to an actual bike, it would have a loose front wheel, brakes which worked sporadically, and a horrible paint job, but it would still be a lot of fun to ride, especially with a few friends. Motorbike sure isn’t pretty, but take it for a spin and you might just be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
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