For as long as I can remember, I’ve given any book I sit down to read 100 grace pages before quitting on it. I feel that 100 pages is more than enough time for an author to sink or swim. If they can’t manage to hook me in that amount of space, I’ll close the book without remorse and move on. It’s not necessarily that there’s something magic about those first hundred pages; the number is arbitrary. But there is something telling…
Before I crack open a book and commit to those grace pages, there is a selection process involved. Otherwise, I’d be guilty of reading 100 pages of 50 Shades of Grey, which is just not happening.
That said, I’ve decided to do a trial run of impression reviews (basic gameplay, pros, cons, verdict) for the games that Microsoft makes available for free twice a month to Xbox Live Gold members. While in this instance I am at the mercy of Microsoft and therefore have no selection process, I plan on maintaing a grace period of six hours before declaring “yay” or “nay.” I’ll then post my review here within the first week of the game’s cost-free availability so you, the reader, still have approximately a week to download or pass on it as you see fit.
Without further adieu:
Motocross Madness is not a motocross simulator by any stretch, but does a fair job at being the arcade game it’s marketed as. Your avatar – not some game-specific character model – hops atop a motorbike and races, flips, and explores in search of XP, money, and fame (which, as I’ll explain, is not limited to Motocross Madness).
In Madness, you compete in traditional races, trick competitions, time trials, and explore sandbox arenas to earn XP which unlock upgrades (some passive, some active) and money which you can use to buy new bikes, bike upgrades, and costumes for your avatar.
You can also race against other Live members via the multiplayer option. Pretty straightforward and unashamedly simple!
- You’ve got your standard gas (RT) and brake (LT) setup, with A unleashing your turbo and X, B, and Y triggering a number of aerial tricks with the additional of a slight directional nudge from your joystick. Its simplicity makes for a high level of accessibility to be sure.
- Each of the tracks has multiple alternative routes that can be taken to shave off precious seconds of lap time. These routes are usually littered with large gold coins which earn you ten additional dollars each. Exploration is encouraged and rewarded, but does not come without a dose of risk.
- There is a “club” tab that shows how you stack up against people on your Xbox Live Friends list, which adds an element of friendly competition even to the single player campaign. Not only are you racing for the best time, but for accolades like longest drift and furthest bail (basically how far your avatar rag dolls through the air before hitting the ground). The game also sports Avatar Famestar which is a sort of visually-oriented achievement system for you avatar. The fame you gain in Madness can be flaunted in any other Famestar game.
- The tracks suffer from a lack of visual cues alerting you to approaching turns or the general direction you’re meant to travel. They tend to be less restrictive than your typical circuit racing tracks, but that freedom is infuriating when you get turned around, get slightly off-track, or (God forbid) find yourself in a bush. There is a mini map in the bottom lefthand corner, but having to constantly peek down there during a race comes with just as much sure risk as potential reward. The saving grace of this frustration: Hitting your select button resets you to the center of the correct course.
- During the exploration events, the level of control and precision necessary to collect the gold skulls is extremely high. I spent twenty minutes trying to unsuccessfully collect a skull floating in the air past a sand dune in the Egypt level. The skull was not visible on the approach (am I too far to the left or right?) and there was no way of telling if I was going too fast or too slow to collect it. I missed it. A lot. I left it floating.
If you’re going to get it, certainly get it free. I wouldn’t pay the regular price for it personally. There is a higher value to the game if you are big into Famestar as it seemed quite easy to amass a large number of fame points in a short period of time. In no time at all, I was the most famous of my friends, so there’s that!
On August 16th, Dishonored is free to XBL Gold members. My impression review will land shortly thereafter!