Michael Leparc On May 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

Motocross Madness Screenshot 1Way back in 1998, well before Microsoft had any pretensions of invading your living room with a game console, their nascent Microsoft Games division put out a little something for PC called Motocross Madness. This was the second in a trio of “Madness” franchises in the late 90s (which also included Monster Truck and Midtown Madness), focusing on the fun of racing and flinging around dirt bikes in far off locations. It was very well received for its wide open sandbox gameplay during a period dominated by claustrophobic shooters like Quake. While there are many other franchises we’d love Microsoft to revisit like MechAssault, it is indeed comforting to see them going back to their roots in commissioning the Xbox Live Arcade version. And fortunately for us, the result is a game that hasn’t betrayed its bloodline, and consequently probably one of the best games to take advantage of our avatars, too!

So the gameplay modes are pretty straightforward and really only have a few slight variations to the original. Each mode features three locales (Egypt, Australia, and Iceland) with three tracks or areas each. The first mode of course is the Race mode, and much like any arcade racer nowadays, you have a boost bar for temporarily increasing your speed. The difference here is you charge up that bar (and earn experience points) by performing stunts, which are performed by pressing a button and a direction after getting airborne off a ramp or hill and letting go in time to allow your biker to land safely, or else endure a hilarious crash! Instead of a tutorial mode, the game gets you accustomed to the different controls and stunts by slowing unlocking each button as you level up in the races. I found the AI to be a bit of a push over in this mode frankly, though I don’t always win and I’m thankful the developers didn’t resort to obvious rubberbanding. As long as you keep pulling off stunts and filling your boost bar while avoiding crashes, you shouldn’t have too much trouble, though. Next you have Rivals mode, which I find to be a bit redundant next to Race mode as the only difference is you have to beat the developers’ times to unlock a world leaderboard. This could have just been integrated into the Race mode in my opinion.

Fortunately, the next two modes more than make up for it. Exploration mode is real meat of the game, especially for those of us who remember the original Motocross Madness. This is where you can check out a decent sized map of pyramids, sand dunes, ruins, and wilderness and basically do whatever crazy stunts and crashes you want. And if you really need something to do, there’s tons of collectibles to find in order to unlock the gold medals to open new areas and earn serious cash. Of course there’s also achievements you can earn by getting serious air time or stunt points. If you’re all about the stunts themselves, there’s the Trick Session mode, which sets you up with a ton of ramps and time limit to rack up a certain number of points for the gold medal. Harder, narrower ramps to hit will have bigger multipliers but you better be sure to stick the landing or they will go to waste! All of these modes except for Rivals can be played online with friends in your Party or in matchmaking with up to 8 people.

As alluded to before, there is an experience point and level system. After each event, experience and cash is tallied up based on your performance. The more you level up, the more tricks are unlocked, first in the form of new buttons you can press while airborne, and later in modifying your stunts the longer you hold the button, or giving you boost for drafting other racers, etc. You can even unlock the ability to melee other racers so you can get your Road Rash on! Money on the other hand is used to purchase new bikes and upgrade them, which allows you to focus on different traits like Top Speed, Acceleration, Handling, Trick (which basically allows you to stick harder landings), and Boost. Cash can also be spent on outfits for your avatar if you’re tired of what it’s normally wearing for some reason. Personally however, I like that I can perform a backflip on my bike while wearing an Assassin’s Creed or Halo outfit compared to the boring stuff you can buy in the game. You can also form a Bike Club with your friends which will you allow you to compare stats and give each other challenges to beat, nothing special beyond that but a nice little touch. It should also be noted that being an avatar game, your progress on various challenges will also be recorded to FameStar, for people who are into that.

Motocross Madness is incredibly visually appealing for an affordable XBLA game. While the use of avatars clearly demands a somewhat cartoony approach to the art, the graphics are still fairly detailed and realistic, striking a nice balance while not making its protagonists look out of place. I was especially impressed by both the Egyptian and Icelandic tracks, the latter of which are quite colorful for such an icy landscape. Also on the plus side, the game has a splitscreen mode for two players (and you can join online games together) and the framerate holds steady and smooth in it. You’ll become very familiar with the repetitive menu and track intro music, but to be honest it’s all a little catchy so it’s forgivable. The bikes sound great and the crowd cheers and gasps as you make or miss stunts, so the sound effects do a good job of getting you into the game.

I had a lot of fun playing this game and it brought back some great memories of the original. If you love dirt bikes, arcade racing, exploration, or crazy crashes it’s really impossible to go wrong with this great Xbox Live Arcade release. I mean it’s only 800 points. My only real complaint is there’s only 9 tracks and 6 bikes to unlock, but you can get hours of value out of the Exploration mode alone! While I haven’t tried every game that features avatars yet, this appears to one of the few that isn’t just a cheesy tech demo but a real game, so also if you’re just looking for something that finally takes advantage of that nifty digital doll you dressed up, I highly recommend Motocross Madness, but then it’s just a pretty cool little game, period.


Controls and plays smoothly. Lots of things to collect, unlock, and explore. Just wish it had more tracks and maybe a little more challenging AI.


Beautiful visuals without making the avatars themselves look out of place.


Catchy bits of music and solid sound effects that capture the excitement of dirt bikes.


Exactly what an XBLA game release should be, great value in a small package.

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One Response

  1. myjat says:

    Great review. So worth 800 points, I’m going to buy this.