Available to download from the Xbox LIVE Arcade now, Motocross Madness crept out of nowhere with very little in the way of an announcement or even screenshots, trailers or press coverage. Considering the misguided view of the Xbox 360’s line-up as lacking in exclusive titles, you might have thought that publisher Microsoft Studios would have liked to have drawn more attention to the Motocross Madness, not least because it’s actually a very enjoyable videogame.
Coming from the Joy Ride Turbo school of thought, Motocross Madness offers the basic racing mode in addition to a free roam gameplay option. The gameplay is a bit tougher than you might expect, especially for a title aimed at a mass market audience, but after only a few races you’ll be drifting and tricking your way into first place. All of this is done with your Xbox LIVE Avatar as your rider, making the most of the Xbox 360’s unique features with the inclusion of the Avatar Famestar programme and online multiplayer.
The racing aspect of Motocross Madness is much like you would expect from a pseudo-realistic motocross videogame. Far more forgiving that MX vs. ATV and yet not as lenient as Mad Riders, Motocross Madness demands that players learn that important balance between late steering and early rider adjustment, lest they find themselves in the middle of a bone-crunching bail out. The videogame features four types of challenge in its Career mode, split across three different locations. The first two types are racing modes, while the third and fourth are Exploration and Trick Session modes. The racing events still tax you with incorporating tricks into your circuits, using them to build boost and thus increasing your chances of pulling off bigger tricks with greater air, but it’s not until the Trick Session mode is unlocked that players really find themselves facing a challenge of positioning and timing.
Exploration mode gives players access to the full map from which the race track and Trick Session stages are drawn from. Each location is available as a self-contained entity, and Exploration modes tasks players with surveying the area, seeking out and collecting coins and golden skulls in order to achieve a medal. Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds, with some skulls requiring two or even three tricky jumps and landings in quick succession to access.
The handling of Motocross Madness is decidedly tricky, with narrow ramps and coin collecting often demanding precision that takes tens of hours to develop. The course design works in favour of this in a notable fashion, with later tracks offering numerous shortcuts of various worth, and many hidden routes that could potentially hinder your final placement in favour of monetary gain.
In addition to the Career Motocross Madness features multiplayer gameplay both through Xbox LIVE and via split-screen gameplay, or even a combination of the two options. Online gameplay is fast and frantic, as you would hope, and does well to retain the level of challenge regardless of the skill lever of individual players. Furthermore, all gameplay types and tracks can be played online whether or not they have yet been unlocked in the Career mode, so players can still experience something new even if hitting a difficulty bottleneck in their single-player gameplay, of which there are a few.
Motocross Madness isn’t about to rewrite the rulebook with it’s presentation, but it does make good use of the Xbox LIVE Avatars and offer some impressive detail in it’s track design. There’s a great deal of seen-it-all-before in much of Motocross Madness, but this is clearly the intention: Microsoft Studios want a videogame which players could simply jump straight into with their preconceptions of what it would be. In this respect, Motocross Madness doesn’t disappoint.
Providing an enjoyable dozen or so hours of gameplay without ever rocking the boat, Motocross Madness is hardly likely to go down in history as a genre defining title and yet at the same time makes a stand for that oft thought lost middle tier. This is where the gap between indie and AAA videogame production lives – Xbox LIVE Arcade – and if Motocross Madness is evidence of what Microsoft Studios have in store for the service Electronic Theatre will eagerly await the next outing.