Monday 24 August 2015

Mountain Bike Racer (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Ian Copeland, Richard Beston, Adam Gilmore
Publisher: Zeppelin Games
Released: 1989

Mountain Bike Racer is an extreme sports game that has similar mechanics to Kikstart (1986, Atari 8-bit).

There's 12 stages in total and your objective is to reach the end of each one before the clock runs out. To do this you'll have to conquer the terrain by jumping over obstacles (Fire button) and learning which contours you can accelerate over (Joystick Up) and which require you to slow down (Joystick Down). The first three stages are fairly straightforward but it quickly becomes more about course memorisation rather than reflexes. It can be maddening but the key is that you'll never feel cheated and every time you fail your own gaming skills are at fault rather than any dodgy programming. At the end of each stage you gain two pieces of currency for every second you have left on the clock. You can then access a Shop where you can buy a Time Boost as well as items that allow you to ride over certain obstacles without braking. This is the most crucial part of the game in terms of strategizing over which items to buy as the right ones can save you precious seconds. Lots of trial and error is involved but it's very rewarding speeding past a section that you previously fell apart on! The controls are simple and work perfectly well but there is a bit of ghosting when you reach high speeds which can mess with judging spatial distance from harmful objects. The game can also be a bit harsh in terms of how far back it throws you when you crash which forces you to redo slow sections while the clock ticks away. The game definitely has a sense of humour especially with its level names which include Water Way 2 Go and even one named after the developer called Can U Copeland! There's no in-game music but the intro track is excellent with its bouncy bass-line and soaring lead.

Mountain Bike Racer is highly addictive and it's fun learning each stage in terms of how you can use the different items to your advantage. It's not particularly easy to get into due to the amount of trial and error involved but those who put the time in will find a surprisingly deep racer under its simple premise.

Random trivia: Zeppelin Games is now known as Eutechnyx and they developed the 2014 game Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance for PC, iOS and Android.

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