Motocross Madness is actually the title of two games, and both have been published by Microsoft Games. The first incarnation was developed for release in 1998 by Rainbow Studios, but earlier in 2013 an Xbox Live game was developed by Bongfish Gmbh, and that’s the game we’ve been playing. For some reason Xbox.com only lists the launch trailer, so if you want to download it, you’ll need to find it via your console.
The game itself is an arcade off-road racer which is part of the Avatar Famestar collection of games. That means your in-game character is your Xbox Live Avatar (other games include FirePro Wrestling and Crash Course 2), which is still a cool novelty, and also means you can complete ‘Famestar Challenges’ to unlock new costumes across all the games. In Motocross Madness, if you unlock the Star or Megastar costumes, you also get bonus cash and XP which does make your progression a bit quicker.
Motocross Madness Single Player:
In single player, you compete in three types of event (Races, Rivals, Trick Sessions), or take part in an Exploration mode to collect Skulls and Coins to earn both cash and experience. Experience unlocks further events, the 6 available bikes and costume items, while the cash is used to buy bike upgrades (wheels, engines etc), and the costume items to use.
Races take place against AI opponents, whilst Rivals and Trick Sessions see you compete against times set by the developers and then other human racers.
The controls are relatively simple – accelerate and brake with the triggers, hit A to boost, and use X,Y and B for a range of tricks. Bumper buttons are also used to punch and kick rivals if you really want. Interestingly, you can still pull a stoppie on your front wheel despite only having one brake button – must be some innovative new braking system.
The bikes are fairly quick to upgrade – some are based on generic motorcycles, whilst 1 is obviously styled to resemble a BMW R1200GS, and two have fictitious names but come complete with KTM logos. One tip to realise early on is that the Class recommended for each race is just a guide, and you can happily enter an E Class race with a top S Class, maxed out bike. Although the AI does adapt to the faster bike to make every race close, it does mean that tricks are easier to pull off, and crashes are slightly easier to recover from.
In all modes, pulling tricks and drifts earns boost – and if you let it reach maximum, you’re on fire and can perform extra tricks using the B button. In addition, chaining tricks earns you a multiplier which soon adds up, particularly when you get to the level that allows wheelies to keep your multiplier meter from running out.
All the events take place across three locations, Egypt, Australia and Iceland. With 3 courses in each country, you have 9 events in each category, although in exploration mode you’re free to roam between each location.
Graphically, the game is reasonable – it looks nice enough, and there’s no real issues with a consistent fast pace, particularly when you’re hitting the boost button.
The main issue I’ve had is that the controls are a little inaccurate, which is somewhat expected for an arcade racer. It’s not a big problem in the racing and trick modes, aside from occasionally missing a trick after a jump or ending up pulling the wrong one and wiping out – it’s much more of a problem in Exploration mode.
The problem is that the same environments are used, and the 11 hidden Skulls per level can be in some reasonably tricky places, sometimes requiring a decent level of accuracy to collect them. At which point, being a degree out makes a huge difference and can quickly become frustrating when it’s down to the connection between the controller and bike. Although later in the game you can steer mid jump, it still doesn’t help when you have to try and ride up a narrow walkway and your bike can’t turn in a small enough amount to line up properly, or sails off an obstacle midway through – all the more frustrating when you’ve finally figured out how to collect some of the trickier Skulls!
The other, more minor, niggle is that the AI is definitely set to keep with you and offer a constant challenge. That’s not too bad, but occasionally a last lap, last corner crash can see you sail behind trackside scenery with no obvious route back, in which case you’re screwed. Then again, racing can be a tough sport!
That doesn’t mean that Exploration isn’t fun – it’s just more frustrating considering the fairly low difficulty curve of the other events and progression. On the plus side, it’s the more accessible way to enjoy the game for much younger gamers (Although the game is PEGI 12 the only reason seems to be the frequent high impact wipe-outs), as they can just tootle around while you try not to swear in frustration as you sail past a skull for the umpteenth time.
Motocross Madness Multiplayer:
The good news is that there’s a split screen mode for racing, exploration etc, which is a welcome addition. The second player also gets to have their Avatar in-game if there’s a profile on your console, and can happily share in unlocking achievements. Split screen does occasionally hit a moment of slowdown, but it’s extremely rare and doesn’t really impact on the game.Additional players will need an Xbox Live Gold account to compete online however.
There is a full Xbox Live multiplayer mode. Fortunately it’s not needed for any achievements, as to be honest, we’ve struggled to get into a game over the past two weeks, and this is just after Motocross Madness has been half price in an Xbox Live sale. We’ve left lobbies open for a good 10-20 minutes minimum and not seen another player – so either everyone is already in a game and doesn’t like us, or sadly the online side has hugely tailed off.
That’s a real shame, as Motocross Madness does include a cool Club feature which seems to automatically put any friends owning the game into a Club with you to complete various challenges. Again, you can complete the one Club-related achievement without any friends actually playing, but it does mean it takes a bit longer, and the idea of working together alongside competing to beat times and scores set by friends would be nice, particularly when all Avatars are present.
Motocross Madness: 5/10:
Looking at our scoring system we’re probably a bit tougher than a lot of other sites. At 5/10 Motocross Madness isn’t a bad game, and it’s a decent experience if you can pick it up in an Xbox Live sale. In terms of single player value for money, you’re probably looking at 8-10 hours depending on your skill level to unlock pretty much all the achievements, own and upgrade all the bikes, have all locations unlocked and be getting reluctant to redo any events/skulls again.
That’s not bad value, and it definitely makes a change from the more serious racers. It’s also relatively easy to pick up Famestar Challenges and Achievements when compared with some of the other titles (e.g. Crash Course 2).
It does suffer from the lack of gamers still playing online, which isn’t necessarily the fault of the developers, but without being able to get into a game it’s hard to tell. But then again, online longevity is a pretty good sign to how engaging a multi-player mode is.
Motocross Madness is good, basic fun and worth checking out for younger players, casual gaming with friends at your house, or for a few days relaxing away from serious sim-racers. Just don’t expect too much longevity for such a small investment.