Microsoft has used their Avatar Famestar program to promote a wide variety of game’s starring the system’s cartoony (but not too cartoony) Avatars. Last month, the energetic virtual characters vroom vroomed their way onto the professional dirt bike racing circuit in a Motocross Madness reboot. Originally released for the PC in 1998, this new version of Motocross Madness provides plenty of MX thrills for a budget price (800 Microsoft Points/$10).
Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Genre: Motorcycle Racing With Avatars
Release Date: April 10, 2013
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
The nine tracks of Motocross Madness are split across three areas: the pyramids and surrounding desert of Egypt, the coast of Australia, and the frozen tundra of Iceland. Each area provides a good contrast to the others, so you’re never short of variety. Because this is a game starring Avatars, you shouldn’t go in expecting photorealistic graphics, but I was especially impressed with the towering mountains of Iceland and the awesome abandoned amusement park in Australia.
Each of the game’s nine tracks include multiple shortcuts and secret paths, and discovering all of these nooks and crannies are a key part of the game’s four modes. Race is an eight-rider race for first place. Rivals pits you against ghost riders uploaded by the development team. Exploration is an open-world joy ride of each area. And Trick Session is a timed contest to see who can put together the most insane jumps possible. Basically, it’s the standard collection of modes for a racing game.
Exploration is a bit of a drag because it’s so hard to control the bike that it’s frustrating to grab all the collectibles. You’ll definitely find your concentration drifting to the other three modes of play. Race offers a good challenge that never feels frustrating because the AI doesn’t react in the much-maligned “rubberband” way. Instead, the CPU-controlled opponents up their game or fall behind in a difficulty curve that feels more natural. And in some racing games, “compete against the developers” is just an excuse for the developers to show how much better they are at the game than mere mortals. Thankfully, the ghost times in Rivals are tough to beat, but never feel impossible.
Motocross Madness can also be taken online, but finding someone to play against isn’t easy. The lobbies are pretty bare, but when you do find someone to play against, the game works great online.
This is just as well as developer Bongfish has packed Motocross Madness with plenty of offline features. Your Avatar can be leveled up by earning experience points (by winning races and doing tricks), and this leveling unlocks a steady stream of rewards, including multiple types of tricks, more Boost, some fun abilities (like kicking your opponents or steering the bike in mid-air), and a lot more. The leveling system is tied to the “Motocross Madness Bike Club,” a way to pool your gameplay stats with your friends to earn Achievements. It’s an interesting way to bring Motocross Madness players together, but it even works for statheads in single-player (I’ve
walked driven 500 miles? Cool!).
There are even multiple Outfits to unlock that can get pretty interesting. Why yes, I would like to take part in a motocross race in a heavy Russian coat and big furry hat. But most of the time I kept my Avatar in his regular street clothes because I wanted to see his face whenever he went flying off the bike. Bongfish made sure to make the wipeout physics impressive and over-the-top and they have succeeded. Three times I pitched forward into burning hot lava, twice I got decapitated on a metal bar, and once I flew ass-first into the starting lights and got stuck there.
One nitpicky problem I have with Motocross Madness is that you can’t reassign buttons. I like to use the A button as my gas in racing games, but that’s just not possible here. This is 2013; reassigning buttons shouldn’t be impossible.
I was really straining to come up with anything bad to say about Motocross Madness because it’s really a solid racer that is available at a great price. If you love MX racing and are looking for a new game to try, I can’t think of any reason why it shouldn’t be Motocross Madness.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Motocross Madness was provided by Microsoft Studios for the purposes of this review.