When Microsoft announced they were reviving the Motocross Madness series, I was on board. I remember enjoying countless hours in the original PC title due to the tight controls, and outlandish physics. When Microsoft announced the new version was yet another one of their avatar-focused XBLA titles, a lot of my hopes and dreams started to fade away. Still, I pressed on, hoping there was enough of the original left that could draw me back into the insane world of motorbike racing.
With any title focusing on Microsoft’s avatar system, the first thing I noticed upon launching the game is me sitting right on the title screen, on a dirt bike ready for action. This used to be a novelty of sorts, a way to engage players into believing they were somehow a larger part of the experience than they really were. I have since grown numb to that. So, I started up my career. As everyone knows the most important aspect of any Motocross title is how it handles.
Right off the bat I noticed just how slippery the controls were. Power sliding around corners felt frustrating, and collecting the items littered around the track was extremely annoying. Judging just when to turn, or tapping the brake button to slide, never felt natural. After only one race I could already hear myself muttering about how going back to collect all these coins and items was going to be a nightmare. Still after hours of races and practices, I never got a true grasp of how the system worked. I would still slide wide off the course more often than not.
Motocross Madness employs a boost and trick system, much like other modern arcade racers. Performing tricks is as simple as holding down the designated button and a direction. Landing said tricks gives players boost to increase speed, but also adds experience points to the tally, which in turn helps progress player level, thus unlocking more items. It’s a constant grind, and even when helmets and costumes are unlocked, the game requires in-game money to purchase them. It seems like double the work, and the results are really only cosmetic.
Upgrades can be purchased as well, and these definitely help with some of the game’s issues. Heading over to the garage gives access to all of these items including new engines, tires and more. Purchasing and equipping these actually increase the stability of the handling. This makes for a more entertaining experience, but quite a bit of grinding is required to get the best bikes and upgrades.
Thankfully there is an exploration mode that is sans the time limits and other racers. Here players can collect coins at their leisure, which makes the process all the more appealing. There are only three environments to choose from, (Australia, Iceland and Egypt) but they are widely varied.
In addition to the career, Motocross Madness delivers a healthy dose of different modes, the most prominent being the Bike Club. This allows gamers to create gatherings of their friends to compete both online, and asynchronously. I love games that utilize this feature, as my schedule doesn’t always permit me time to play when friends are available. Being able to check scores, and best their times when they aren’t online is always a bonus for me.
I really wanted to love Motocross Madness more. The premise is solid, but the addition of avatar-forced game play really threw me off. The handling could have been greatly improved without grinding for hours to buy new parts. Still, at 800 pts ($10) it is difficult not to recommend checking out for those who enjoy the genre. Motocross Madness contains a solid amount of content, and Bike Club is great when players keep playing. I just wonder how long this game’s legs really are.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.