Motocross Madness review (XBLA)
Motocross Madness was developed by Bongfish Games and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released April 10, 2013 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Excitebike 64. Motocross Madness 2. MX Unleashed. These were the games that defined what a great 3D dirtbike should be. Each gave you the feeling that you could compete with the likes of Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. They immersed players with their perfect blend of arcade-meets-simulation gameplay. With their tight control scheme and interesting courses they brought a semi-niche genre to the forefront and gave players the opportunity to soar like eagles while performing a Cordova.
With Motocross Madness Bongfish Games and Microsoft Studios seek to provide those same thrills and a fluffy, avatar-filled world. The result is an interesting take on an established formula. The game feels social, with a large portion dedicated to local and online play. Exploration of the open worlds is encouraged, and collectables entice players to return for more. And the draw of earning new avatar awards and playing using your existing avatar is always enticing. That being said, this avatar racer isn’t without flaws.
Here’s what we liked:
Open world – Motocross Madness has multiple open worlds to choose from, (Egypt, Iceland and Australia) each with their own theme. In each of those works players can collect coins and skulls; these unlock bike parts and also serve as currency in the game. Each world is divided into sections, which then keep track of your skulls and coins collected for that section. Smart. When you get down to those last few coins and skulls, you’ll know which section of the game world you need to look in for those well-hidden goodies.
Avatar Famestar support – Free avatar gear. Doesn’t everyone like that? The concept, at least in theory, is simple: Complete weekly challenges in this (or any other) Avatar Famestar-enabled game to earn Fame. That Fame then unlocks avatar rewards for the player. But unlock regular avatar awards, Famestar rewards you with much more gear for the virtual you.
Master Chief on a bike – One of the greatest draws to any avatar-based game is the ability to play as a representation of yourself in a virtual world. Second to that is the ability to play as famous characters. It’s great fun to dig into your avatar closet to win a few races as Master Chief, Ezio Auditore, Sub-Zero, Starkiller, Batman, or John Marston. One missed opportunity is the inability to save character outfits as separate NPC players, but that may be more of an overarching avatar customization issue and less of a game-specific one. (Note to Microsoft: If we could save ‘favorites’ in the avatar editor and then allow games to utilize those for our quick access in-game, that would be amazing)
Hefty multiplayer – The ultimate bonus to Motocross Madness is just how much love was put into the multiplayer. Two player splitscreen is supported for all modes, and players can also play over Xbox LIVE. Cool. But the bonus comes in the fact that this is one of only a handful of XBLA games that support both at once. Up to eight players total can play over live, with any combination of up to two splitscreen players per machine. Online, non-race experiences are especially fun as they have a very social feel to them. You’ll find yourself lining up with friends to try and complete your own challenges. You can also form a Bike Club with your friends, which essentially works as a pocket leaderboard.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Ignoring of player control instincts – Any time you crash you’ll be greeted with a small cutscene of your avatar standing up and looking dismayed at their situation. They’re pointlessly long, and only serve to remove the player from the game. They can be skipped, but rather than use any instinctual button press such a face button or trigger, the player must press the back button. Such a thing may seem small, but when you’re trying to keep players vested in a fast-paced game even a slide off the thumbstick can ruin the moment. Inversely summary screens at the end of an event are too easily skipped. Players will miss out on parts unlocked, XP gained, etc because most screens don’t have any sort of required time to remain on the screen. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but there is no screen for a quick summary of progress. To look at what you’ve completed and unlocked you’ll have to head out to the main menu.
Clumsy camera – A strong camera is crucial to any racing game. Knowing how far to distance it from the character, the angle at which it should be, and how much swing it should have in a turn are fundamental. Motocross Madness fails horribly here. The camera swings wildly, making any sort of accurate control impossible. There seems to be an air of ‘action movie’ camera in its design, but more often than not you’ll find that such a loose camera will just frustrate you as you try to line up precision jumps and get a good bead on the path ahead.
Once you get past the game’s extremely awkward camera you’ll find yourself likely willing to forgive all other shortcomings. At its core Motocross Madness truly lives up to the namesake of the 1998 original. It gives players a lot of content for a mere 800 MSP, and any issues listed above could easily be addressed via a title update. Here’s hoping Bongfish and Microsoft are listening, because with a few tweaks this could be one of those rare gems that you recommend to everyone you know. As it stands now it’s a solid game, but those unsure may still want to take the demo for a good long spin before inevitably pulling the trigger.
Score: Buy It