13 years after Motocross Madness 2 came out (and 15 years after the original game), Microsoft have decided to bring this game out into the light again, letting the relatively unknown Bongfish Gmbh put the necessary touches to it. To add a more personal touch to it, your Avatar can join in the fun (the game was originally called Avatar Motocross Madness). Is it worth picking up?
If you’ve played any kart racer you’ll be familiar with this one. There’s nothing much new to the race mechanics. You have your throttle, brakes, drifting and booster. Like many other kart racers, there is also the ability to casually defy the laws of physics by pulling off mid-air tricks which gives you more points and fills your boost meter. When racing, the controls feel good, at times really good. It took me a while to get used to it, especially drifting, but once you get a hang of things you’ll be pulling off tricks and kicking other bikers in no time. As good as everything handles, the simple fact of the matter is that this game essentially does nothing you haven’t seen in many other racers. Which isn’t to put potential buyers off; if you like the look of this game, by all means give it a whirl.
The game consists of 4 modes: the classic race mode where you compete against opponents, Rival mode where you compete against ghost times (either the developers or other players), Exploration mode which puts you into an open world allowing you to explore and grab collectables at your own leisure and Trick session, which again puts you into an open world and pits you against other players, the one with the most points by the end wins. There are 9 tracks altogether (3 from Egypt, Australia and Iceland), all of which have secrets hidden within that can be divulged in exploration mode. While it can be hard to tell the different tracks from within their country apart, they do provide a decent variety, giving you either desert (Egypt), Dirt-road (Australia) or snow (Iceland) environments to play in.
As you play through the career mode (the single player campaign), you will receive money and level up, allowing you to buy upgrades, new bikes and perform more tricks. This is fine for players that choose to play alone, but should you decide to play with friends, either on or offline, you’ll find that unless you have none or all of the upgrades, some bikes are going to be drastically better than others. This is a similar problem that I noted in my Dragonball Z: Bodukai review. There is somewhat of a workaround here as you can have multiple bikes, allowing you to have different bikes at different levels, though it is still a bother. The simple matter is that the player who is most likely to win is the one that spends more time unlocking in single player and not necessarily because they’re better.
Race and Rival mode are essentially the same thing, the only difference being that Race has you competing against other racers, whereas Rival has you competing against the clock. Trick session can make a nice break from the racing every now and again as you simply look for the biggest ramps you can find and hit the boost button. The biggest change of pace however comes with the Exploration mode, which is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I can definitely see people getting into it as it’s the perfect thing to play while listening to podcasts or watching youtube videos as it doesn’t require a great deal of attention, you simply, well, explore, grabbing whatever you can find with no time limit to worry about. The only problem being that the game feels somewhat unnatural in this mode. It’s fine for the most part, but when you try to climb a scaffolding or shimmy up mountains, the camera can completely freak out and bang against the wall or flip all over the place. Add to that the frustration of missing a jump and having to ride all the way back to try again (a similar problem that exists in trick mode), there is only so much relaxation to be found here. Pressing the back button to reset your position back a few seconds only helps a little as you still have to reposition yourself and while getting to the other side of the map is easy, moving to the perfect angle for a jump can be tedious.
For the most part, the presentation is a bit bland. The tracks and environments themselves look great, a little too great at times as sun glare and heavily detailed tracks tend to distract the eye at the worst of times. Elements can take a while to load in sometimes, but other than that, it looks good. It’s just that for all the effort on display, the game is just… there. There’s no personality to the look, the feel or the music, it’s as if it was lifted from a prerecorded template and put into a game. Again, it’s not that it’s bad, in fact it can look pretty great, it just doesn’t stand out and isn’t very distinctive. While writing this review I actually had to quit out of the game because the music was starting to dig into my skull. The strangest thing about the presentation (in a positive sense) is when you crash. Your Avatar will either be sent flying for hundreds of yards or will hit a rock head first, stopping them in their tracks. If you can get over the annoyance of crashing yet again, you may get some laughs as they groan in pain, but apart from that, it’s hardly the unique presentation that will keep you playing.
All modes, except for Rival, are available online and work great. There were only a handful of players when I jumped on, but should the fan-base increase, I can definitely see this being a party favorite. Add to that the ability to have guests join you, online can be a blast should you have the people willing to join.
It took me about 6 – 7 hours to get medals on every track and unlock most of what Motocross Madness has to offer (excluding the Exploration mode). For a game that only costs 800 MS points, I’d say that is definitely good value for money. While many other racers may have more style and content, there’s very little not to like in this game. If you’re a fan of racers, hell even if you’re not, at least give the demo a go and see how you feel. I can’t state enough how uninterested I was at first; I found myself getting very frustrated as racers really aren’t my thing, but after a while the quality of the game’s controls won me over. If it can do it for me, maybe it can do it for you too. Even if you’re just looking for a nights worth of distractions, this cheap but mighty little number is more than capable of filling that hole, with plenty for you to come back to, should you feel the need to dig your teeth in a little further. If people don’t pick this up, a lack of online functionality may limit the appeal somewhat, but there is still plenty going on to enjoy in single-player to warrant the price of entry.