Motocross Challenge – Review


Motocross Challenge by indie developer DHG Games has officially throttled its way into the App Store, with an admirable resemblance to Excitebike. Speaking of which, for $0.99 cents, is this game up to the challenge of scratching that Excitebike itch? Or does it fail to completely satisfy? Check out my full review after the jump to find out .

Noteworthy Features:
* 8 Motocross Bikes

* 8 Tricks
* 10 Tracks & over 30 Racing Events
* Openfient integration

Make no mistake about it, this game has history. It’s an official blast from the past, an apple-flavored resurgence of a Game Boy Advance title that befell unfortunate circumstances and never made it to the cartridge. With the advent of the App Store, this game has been given yet another chance to see the light, a third time is a charm so to speak, since the DS version didn’t quite make the cut either. It has been a long journey for Motocross Challenge, but after being accepted into the App Store, it’s finally out in the wild and commercially available to purchase for the first time since it began development back in 2004. But is it worthy of your hard-earned money? Or is it too little, too late? Read on to find out.

It’s wheelie time!

This adaptation of Motocross Challenge is a port from a platform that revolves around physical buttons (GBA), to a platform that has none (iDevices). As with any port its like trying to stick a square peg in a round hole, obviously it must be done delicately or the peg itself needs to be completely redesigned. In any case the port is well done on a technical level and if you can excuse the tacky looking virtual console and the strict adherence to virtual D-Pad controls, you will find the gameplay to be an enjoyable experience. However, if you have tried this kind of port in the past, specifically one that uses a virtual console (rather then a complete redesign) and were left mostly disappointed, it’s likely you will have the same experience with this game as well.

Even though Motorcross Challenge was undoubtedly inspired by Exitebike, and is somewhat similar to Giant Moto (another Excitebike inspired game on the App Store) the core game mechanics differ slightly. First of all, it’s just a little more fast paced then the aforementioned games. In that you’re not controlling a motorbike with two distinctive and well-balanced speeds; one slow and the other a limited amount of moderate speed. In fact, that isn’t the case here at all. Instead, you’re controlling what feels like a rocket propelled motorbike, which is to say, that the nitro boost in this game is hilariously unrealistic (in a good way). Not to mention that each of the 8 included bikes have their own unique attributes. Some are heavy and fast, others are light as a feather, but slow, and some have very high boost  (to name but a few examples). There’s even a mix of freestyle inspired tricks that you can perform when you launch into the air

3, 2, 1… Blast off!
In Motocross Challenge there are 4 modes and 3 different race types to enjoy.

The modes are as follows:

* Challenge – a tournament mode, which has you progressing/unlocking through an assortment of tracks and race types (30 in all.)

* Free-Ride – a solo joyride/practice run through any of the 10 levels included (assuming you have unlocked them of course.)

* Vs Friend – a rehash of Free-Ride, essentially an asynchronous multiplayer mode that allows you to share your score/time and challenge your OpenFeint friends to beat it.

* Tutorial – an interactive run-through of the games controls.

The race types are as follows:

* Time attack – a race against the clock, where each lap gives you a time bonus.

* Trick attack – freestyle mode where you compete against AI opponents for the highest trick score.

* World Tour – a race against AI opponents, whoever crosses the finish-line first wins.

Also of note, Motocross Challenge does a great job of leveraging OpenFeint integration to add substantial replay value to the overall experience. It has plenty of achievements to grab, in-game unlock-ables to get, and leader-boards to compete in for bragging rights. All of this will no doubt keep many gamers occupied for numerous hours. And while a true real-time multi-player experience would have been icing on the cake, the option to at least challenge and compete against times/scores with friends asynchronously is still an addition worthy of some credit.

It’s a go for launch!

The controls work about as well as to be expected with a port of this type. There is two thumb-friendly on screen virtual D-Pad buttons (Up & Down) placed vertically along the left side of the virtual console and the classic A and B input buttons placed vertically along the right-side of the virtual console. Under the virtual screen there is two more virtual D-Pad buttons (left & right) placed horizontally, with an OpenFient icon comfortably centered between the two. On the top-right side of the screen there is the classic start button, and top center you have a virtual level-gauge which indicates the level of tilt the game is currently recognizing from the device with a small virtual bubble (circle) that floats from left to right inside the gauge as you tilt your device.

The two D-pad buttons on the left-side of the screen control the bike’s lane changes or up and down steering when riding on the track. This is crucial as you will want to employ quick up and down movements to try and dodge the barrage of mud slicks, that will slow down your speed considerably when you ride over/through them. Get some air though, and these two buttons can also be used to pull off tricks. Tapping on the Up D-Pad button does a “Nothing” aka “No-Hander” and the Down D-Pad button does a “Nac-Nac.”

The two A and B on screen buttons on the right side of the screen controls acceleration. Tapping and holding on the B button will control default acceleration (varies depending on what bike you use), while tapping on the A button will unleash the nitro boost (more like rocket propulsion if you ask me).

The accelerometer is used to control weight transfer. As in tilting the device to the left, will do a wheelie or a back-flip when in the air. Alternatively tilting the device to the right will control a nose dive or a front-flip when in the air. This worked well for the most part, although an option to adjust the tilt sensitivity would have been much appreciated.

The other two virtual D-Pad buttons across the bottom of the virtual screen are only there for use with the game’s menus and do not control any additional tricks, nor are they an alternative for weight transfer.

tricky, tricky, tricky…

Aside from overall design aesthetics being lifted straight from the NES era (which may or may not be a bad thing for most people), this game has plenty of polish and a whole lot of attention to detail going for it. The well designed tracks look great and have some truly artistic backgrounds, across a variety of settings; from snow mountains to beaches and everything in between. The sprite animations are flawless and the framerate is smooth. There’s even some fitting voice-over commentary ready to congratulate you every time you land a trick.
It’s no secret that it took a long time for Motocross Challenge to finally bask in the light of commercial availability, to once and for all have the opportunity to start turning a profit. It’s unfortunately just too little too late. There was a huge opportunity for DHG Games with the on-set of the App Store, and they could have completely redesigned, Motocross Challenge properly and I would have enthusiastically recommended this as a must-have, but what we have here is nothing more then a virtual shell of the game’s originally intended glory, straight-up ported to the iDevices; like a square peg shoved into a circle hole by force alone. In all honesty, Motocross Challenge is the closest thing to a true Excitebike game on the App Store for now and it will no doubt tease out some glee from fans of Excitebike, but only if you can live with the virtual console and deal with the game’s strict adherence to virtual D-Pad controls.

iFanzine verdict: Motocross Challenge is definitely one to pick up if you’re a fan of Excitebike and/or NES style games; but a must-have it is not…
Score: 6 out of 10

App Store Link: Motocross Challenge $0.99 for iPhone & iPod Touch (no iPad specific version just yet). Requires iPhone OS 3.1.2 or later.