Dave Mirra BMX Challenge (Wii) - Review by andyr
I've only played a couple of BMX / Skate games in the past, but these have been the standard free-roaming fare, with you controlling a character around large areas pulling off stunts & collecting items to enable you to progress to the next course. This time around Dave Mirra eschews this approach, and instead goes for a rather odd combination of racing and tricking. Does this work? Well, not for me no. I couldn't really square the opposing requirements to try out insane tricks, with the looming likelihood of biting the pavement, and the need to keep up with the other riders and ideally win the race. Performing tricks will eventually give you a speed boost which can help catch up any time you lost performing them, but I found myself just trying to race instead - and there isn't enough in this game for it to be satisfying as just a bike racer.
The main part of the game is the standard fare of a career mode with twelve tracks, each one (after the first) being unlocked when you achieve enough gold stars. These gold stars are awarded for your race placement as well as for tricks and style points gained during the race. As the game progresses you'll not only have to finish first, but also finish in style: having jumped, spun & grinded your way through the course. Initial customisation of your character allows you to choose from a range of bizarre male & female riders such as 'nerd', 'punk' etc, with the addition of a limited choice of clothing style / colour. The tracks themselves are a rather odd mix - ranging from the starting level where you seem to be haring round an archaeological dig, to science museums & docks. I found that some courses were incredibly annoying with far too much clutter just waiting to up-end you (often placed at seemingly intentionally evil locations like at the end of a grind rail).
As you race you can gradually fill a 'Monster Boost Meter' by performing tricks: fill the meter and you can trigger a boost which will last until the meter runs out. During the boost the screen goes all blurry making it tricky to make out the track debris and it your extra speed doesn't seem to last long enough to catch up with other riders event modestly further ahead. Filling your trick or style meter allows you to boost until you crash - which is likely to be very quickly unless you happen to be on a very easy section of the course. It seemed that grinding was the easiest way to very quickly fill the boost meter - somewhat strange as performing a back flip off a huge jump seemed to have very little effect at all! Indeed the amount of boost fill you get seemed to bear no resemblance to the apparent difficultly of the trick.
You'll progress through career mode pretty quickly, though later races are a lot harder, and it's doubtful whether there's anything to make you want to retry it.
Split screen multiplayer is also available for various race and trick events (for up to 4 players).
The game is controlled with just the WiiMote - held horizontally as if gripping (very small) handlebars. Tipping the controller to the left & right controls your steering & although it takes a little getting used to it works pretty well. The only other use of the Wii's motion sensitive features is where you flip the controller upwards to jump, and tilt it side to side or backwards & forwards to keep your balance during grinds and manuals. All remaining action is controlled by using the directional pad & buttons 1 & 2, with tricks ranging from a simple double peg grid using the 1 button, to a one hand double tailwhip 360 which requires you to press up, down, right, 1 & 2 buttons in succession. In fact there are a massive sixty six different air tricks, seven stalls & 8 grinds! It sometimes felt like I was playing a beat-em-up or Prince of Persia game with desperate buttons mashing and no real idea what the outcome would be. After a while I just kept to the couple of moves I knew I could pull off, though that seems to defeat the purpose somewhat.
Not the games strong point this (actually at this point I'm not sure BMX Challenge has any strong points at all, but there you go). They're definitely not next-gen, not even on a par with other Wii releases. The trick animations are fair but nothing spectacular. I did find one thing highly entertaining though, and that was the hilarious 'rag-doll' tumbles your rider takes when you crash. For rag-doll read jelly-doll as legs and arms twirl and twitch into highly unlikely (and highly painful) positions. My rider seemed to like doing the splits a lot!
The generic instrumental rock tracks are pretty dull and don't really add anything to the game. Compared to the banging rock tracks of, admittedly higher budget racing games, the sound was really lacking. The numerous 'civilians' that you'll harass as you zoom around them (but never manage to hit) will regularly complain with phrases like 'watch it dude' - which can be a bit incongruous when you're riding around the back streets of a far eastern city!
Not a terrible game, but not a very good one either and as it's a full price release I would expect more.
Pro: Amusing in places - but not for long. Pulling off suicidal tricks is entertaining for a while.
Con: Annoying tracks, mediocre graphics & audio, little longevity
Final score: 4