To anyone who has kept up with Microsoft’s push to insert the ‘Xbox Avatar’ into games, the experiment has seldom led to anything more than mediocre kart racers and weird, often awful, indie games. There isn’t really a good reason that avatars haven’t been well-implemented into games thus far. Whether it’s been through budget limitations, general apathy for the product, or Microsoft’s crazy guidelines for how avatars must be presented in games, avatars have never been able to surround themselves in a game worth playing.
Motocross Madness is a game worth playing. ‘Surprising’ is the word that has kept resurfacing as I think about Motocross Madness. Given the low expectations I’ve had for games of its caliber thus far, it’s been refreshing to play what is not only a “good avatar game”, but a good game altogether. Above all else, Motocross Madness doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t.
Events in Motocross Madness are broken down into four parts: normal competitive races, rival races, exploration stages, and trick sessions. The most interesting of those are the exploration stages, in which players are dropped into one of many open world terrains and given various objectives of collecting coins, doing tricks, etc. It provides a good change of pace from the other racing modes, as you’re not constrained to a time limit. Trick sessions place you the same open areas as the exploration mode as you fight against other NPC’s to see who can rack up the highest trick score in the time limit.
When you’re not on the track in Motocross Madness, you can use money earned from events to upgrade or buy new bikes, which then qualifies you to participate in higher class events. Problems arise when every new bike purchased starts out at the lowest “E” class, forcing you to repurchase all the upgrades you had on a your last bike. I found the entire prospect of buying new bikes rendered moot by the fact that the first default bike you get is more than capable to complete every event in the game. I completed every race event in 1st place with nothing but a fully upgraded stock bike.
The moment-to-moment bike riding in Motocross Madness works fairly well, but definitely has issues. Drifting is very inconsistent, sometimes leading to a successful slide, and sometimes leading me to a complete stop. The game also tries to add an incentive to crash by giving you some XP depending how “gnarly” the crash is, but the action doesn’t stop during the crash. In this way, it’s not worth it to lose for first place position to get a few extra experience points crashing. Also, the avatar ragdoll animations are comically bad. When Motocross Madness’ driving is working though, it provides a thrilling sense of speed and a pretty enjoyable trick variation. As you gain experience and level up, you’ll gain access to new tiers of tricks to be performed in air: tricks that involve pressing in a direction while holding a corresponding face button. You’ll often have to think about which trick is necessary for the jump, as some tricks take longer than others to perform, but yield a higher boost bonus.
There are total of nine tracks in the game, spanning across three regions. The tracks themselves are surprisingly well designed and varied in terms of layout, and they look pretty great, but they do a poor job of articulating the correct path at times. Often I’d stumble off-track because there was no clear sign or terrain that indicated I was going the wrong way.
Motocross Madness also sports a social network suite called Bike Club. Here you can see your friends’ best times on tracks, stats, medals, etc. You can also asynchronously race friends’ ghosts to beat their score, and or compete directly in real time. These features work well enough, but the entire section feels incredibly half-baked. It becomes pretty clear that Bike Club was an afterthought with its plainness and lack of creativity.
As a racing game, Motocross Madness is a well-made addition to the scarcely populated genre. It has a great variety in tracks and tricks, and provides some good, though fairly limited, replay value with the addition of Bike Club. It has a good share of quirks, no doubt, but they don’t take away too much from overall enjoyment. If past attempts at avatar-focused games have shown us anything, it is that it’s apparently tough to put out a good avatar game. Motocross Madness is easily the best argument for an avatar game to date, and also just a good ol’ racing arcade biker racer.