To me, motorcycle racing is a subset of formula, rally, street and other forms of automotive racing. To be honest, it never really caught my interest since I thought it was similar to the "extreme" movement in the sports arena. That is, until I picked up Moto GP for the Xbox and found out why it's such a rush when it comes to motorcycles. Quick acceleration times, breakneck speeds and extreme nimbleness - these are some traits that automotive vehicles will never be able to match, regardless of the carmaker.
It follows that most motorcycle titles I've seen on the Game Boy Advance have been 2D and not even the Mode 7 inspired kind, they were the top-down ones that go all the way back to ExciteBike. But this title, Moto Racer Advance, has the amiable controls of a simple 2D racer. Controls can most often be the hiccup of Game Boy Advance titles. When you're on a motorcycle traveling close to 200mph, the sensitivity of the controls really matter. One touch of the button too strong or one touch of the button too light and you might end up careening off the track. Luckily, the developers knew about the deficiencies and have in the final product, created a great and intuitive control scheme.
Moto Racer Advance also benefits from an intense sense of speed. There are two ways to visually create this for a game player who's sitting stationary. One is the framerate at which the game runs. The faster the updates, the quicker you think your bike is moving. Otherwise, the numbers on your dashboard could read 600mph and you wouldn't even feel a thing. Secondly, Moto Racer Advance may use hacks to create that 3D feel, but that doesn't mean they left everything as bland and simple as
Pole Position. There are buildings, obstacles, road textures densely laid out, especially in the Traffic and GP modes. At top speeds, things fly by swiftly and this is the second ocular trick we need.
The sound effects, unfortunately, don't help too much. While the graphics gave me the same feeling I got from a bigger console, it's the sound that gets the short stick here. A few minutes into the game and it's evident that neither the hardware nor space allocated for audio effects is enough to convincingly do the rest of Moto Racer Advance justice.
Things aren't all about speed in this game though. Most of the time, you'll be going much slower, braking upon turns and cornering smartly to avoid lost time and of course, falling off the bike or hitting an object. You'll spend as much time on the other buttons as you do on the acceleration one. The computer-controlled competitors will ensure this.
Moto Racer Advance includes a full course of racing. Motocross mode sends you through dirt tracks and off-road type terrains. Even here, the tracks aren't barren but populated with the odd tree or shrub. There's the GP mode, which takes place on road tracks and the Traffic mode, which takes place on roads plus real traffic. All in all, I found the GP mode most enjoyable, perhaps because I was addicted to GP in the first place but the Traffic mode, while fun the first try around, quickly ramps up on the difficulty curve.
One of the things I dislike about console racers is the incessant need to unlock things. Sure, unlocking gives depth to a game because it forces you to beat better times, come in first place and take up more challenges. But when whole game modes or vehicle types are locked off in the beginning, it's more annoying than fun. Moto Racer Advance is one of the first console racers I found where you actually play in one game mode and you can unlock something that is in another one. This makes the progression less linear.
With long draw distances, fierce competition and frenetic speeds, there's really not much more I could ask for from Moto Racer Advance. You could complain about some of the crude artwork, color schemes or lack of 3D shine, but it doesn't discount that a lot of care was put into this game by the developers. In doing what they did, they've created a superb racing game, two wheels and four, on the Game Boy