Motocross Madness Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The original Motocross Madness was a PC game developed by Rainbow Studios in 1998 and released through Microsoft. It had a sequel, Motocross Madness 2, released in 2000. Fans everywhere will remember this series of games fondly as one of the most realistic bike-racing game experiences for its time. This year, Bongfish has taken the reigns and developed a new, completely remade version of Motocross Madness, exclusively released for the Xbox Live Arcade.
While there is no storyline to attach you to the game, what makes this game personal is that you can have your own Xbox Live Avatar as your main character. The benefit to this is not only that you can feel like you’re putting that little version of you (that you have probably spent hours on trying to perfect) to the test, but it also brings Avatar FameStar into the game. Avatar FameStar is a new Xbox Live initiative that rewards players’ Xbox accounts when they play specific games. It works almost like achievements, giving points to weekly goals (like doing a wheelie for 200 meters) in specific games. Gamers can spend points to buy unlocked Avatar Items, Outfits, and Accessories they can use in any Avatar FameStar game, or even just sport them on their Xbox Avatar for their Xbox Live friends to admire. Motocross Madness has this feature, which means that unlike previous gaming, you can use your skills to deck out your Avatar, and you’ll still have those items – even when you decide to turn off Motocross Madness and move on to your next gaming conquest.
The mechanics are what you’d expect; you can steer, Accelerate, Decelerate, and Drift. Where the mechanics take a different turn is when you jump off ramps or bumps and do Tricks. As you progress in the game, you’ll unlock new Tricks that will prompt you in mid-air to hold down a button (like X or Y) and a direction of your choosing on the analog stick to make your Avatar do things like spin around or do a handstand until you land. Successful Tricks will earn you Power, allowing you to press A and get a speed boost.
Be careful not to wait too long before completing your Trick (by releasing X or Y), or you’ll wipeout on the track. Bails almost seem rewarding as you get points for them to add to your total score, but the crashes are lackluster, often having the Avatar just bounce to a random spot on the road, physics be darned. Even when I tried hitting something head on, instead of being thrown forward I just landed to the right of my bike, while going top speed. You will also get a time loss (which is to be expected) when you Bail, so the mixed signals on reward versus punishment feel slightly misleading – if you’re going to bail, make it good.
In Motocross Madness, you will be able to compete by yourself, with another player locally, or online with up to eight people on any track that has been unlocked during your Career. When you select a solo Career, you’ll start off in Race mode with only one track available to you. There are a total of nine races to unlock in this mode, and you can win Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals on each. You will also be able to collect tokens on the track that will assist in either upgrading your Outfits and Bikes, or giving you some Power for the race. There are three locations for tracks: Egypt, Australia, and Iceland. Each location gives you three tracks to race on, and the terrain matches what you would see were you to race there in real life.
As you move through your basic Career, you will (after you’ve won three tracks in Race mode) unlock Rivals. These are ghostly figures that are made by the developers, who know all the tricks to getting the best times. What is really cool about Rivals is that when you race with them, you’ll see how they got the incredible times because you can see where they go and what they do. Each track has multiple ways you can beat them, with little shortcuts along the way. When you’re in the heat of the action you don’t always have time to figure out if a little path off to the right of the course is worth taking – but with Rivals you get to see just how much it can make a difference, and how to get through it without wiping out and hurting your time.
One small disappointment in this reboot is the small amount of available races, as the original Motocross Madness had over thirty tracks to play on, whereas this new installment only has nine. Nevertheless, you’ll find new ways to enjoy the terrain as you work on improving your Tricks, trying to find new ways to beat your Rivals’ times, and using the Exploration races to joy ride around without competition or timestamps. Exploration tracks are simply for fun and token collecting so you can buy upgrades for your character. If you really don’t care about Exploration, and are tired of Racing around, you can try out Trick Session mode where your only goal is to try and pull off as many Tricks on the track you can muster.
Visually the tracks and effects are very reminiscent of the original Motocross Madness, but where it differs is in the characters. Instead of going for realism, Bongfish has opted for implementing cartoony Avatars. The issue with this is that the scenery is extremely detailed and even majestic at times – which makes the characters stick out even more. This effect may jolt fans of the previous games, as the realistic nature of the graphics was a big pull for players in 1998. When you get past the fact that this is a complete remake and not just a revamp, you will see that even though the two types of graphics pulled together may feel disjointed in nature, you’ll still want to explore the beautiful terrain. From old, crumbled stone ruins and pyramids, to bumpy, muddy paths riddled with pebbles – you won’t be disappointed with the detail involved on these maps.
Although the camera is usually fluent, if you were hoping to look around and see if there are any secret paths while you race, you are going to run into problems. While you can move the camera angle with the right analog stick, you’ll have to try and hold it there as the second you release pressure on the analog stick, it flicks right back to the static position it was in. This makes it hard to race and look around as the transition is disorienting and hard to hold onto when you’re also trying to compete against the other players. This means you will either have to utilize Exploration or Rivals mode to figure out the track before jumping right into the harder Career modes, which may turn some gamers off.
The sound includes musical numbers you’d come to expect with your typical racer – lower base, some sounds of people clapping to the beat, and an electronic keyboard coming into play as the main instrument. Exploration slows down the tunes, whereas the Rivals mode pumps it up in both speed and volume. Sometimes it’s good to stick with what people know, and Motocross Madness fits the tone perfectly with these little numbers, while adding the revving sounds of the engines, or sound of gravel under-tire that leaves you satisfied and puts you mentally in the game.
Motocross Madness isn’t your serious racer, as many enthusiasts may find the game very short and easy. It’s meant to be a quick pick-up-and-go game, with each race lasting no more than five minutes, and no story progression to keep you locked into your seat. For 800 Microsoft Points, this game is a fun pick-up that will make non-racers feel like champions, and hardcore racers feel like they are taking a relaxing Sunday drive, only sweating it out when trying to top scores or beat the developers’ times in Rivals. Bongfish makes Motocross Madness a game that will be playable for any type of gamer, which really helps to bring new people into the genre, and promote the new Xbox Avatar FameStar initiative. The price itself is worth it for gamers that drop a ton of coin on their Avatars, as they will be rewarded with usable add-ons for their toons. Overall, this game delivers a fun adventure in an inexpensive package.
Motocross Madness receives a 4.0/5.0
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