Digital Concepts' Motocross Stunt Racer is a sleek motorcycle racing game that touches upon two fads in the racing genre. The first is the use of motorbikes in races, displacing the usual formula cars. The second is an alternate way of scoring, counting points for stunts and daredevil tricks rather than the bourgeois how many laps can you complete in how short of a time.
Racer is able to render its fast paced isometric action through the 2Dream engine, although in this game, the developers lost their trademark particle effects. Like most Digital Concepts titles, though, framerate is rock solid across the board, even with multiple racers and in complex environs. The 2Dream engine is able to add real time shadows and use voxel technology to give smooth animation. There’s nothing more irritating in a racing game than jerky movement and Racer passes this test with flying colors.
My only complaint is with the voxel technology. This is one technology that isn’t known for its detail or sharpness, especially of things up close and personal. As such, the bikes themselves, while smoothly animated, feel a little cartoonish – more like the motorbikes in Excite Bike than the realistic ones in MotoGP.
In spite of this, the tracks themselves have a gritty dirty feeling to them. Shaded subtly with colors, it’s able to fully control the use of dark colors because Racer’s engine doles out customizable gamma correction to offset the dark colors in bright and sunlit settings. Thus, not only does it look good in the screenshots, it looks good on your handheld as well. Furthermore, you can orient the display for landscape and portrait on the fly, which helps for those who are left handed or have gaming peripherals attached to their PDAs.
What differentiates a racing game from a stunt racing game is its treatment of physics. You can skimp a lot on physics when you go from point A to B but you can’t when you’re supposed to be going off jumps and performing stunts. The physics, trademark to Digital Concepts titles, is realistic. Collision detection is good. Bikes never go through objects or fly off the track and collision with other racers (which happens more often than you might think) is realistic. The racer traveling at a faster speed is more often than not the one to knock the slower one out.
Supporting both stylus and handheld key play, Racer features tight controls that don’t seem too floaty or distanced from the action. This probably owes more to the game’s performance and ability to keep a high framerate going, even on older Pocket PC devices. The game is also available natively for Sharp Zaurus / Linux based handhelds. And at only three megabytes, is efficient in delivering its forty five levels.
Gameplay is not much different from traditional racing titles. A good many of the tracks are locked in the beginning and you have to progress in linear fashion, performing stunts or coming in at a certain place (not necessarily first) to rack up enough points to unlock the subsequent track. You can replay the tracks again or use them in the Free Ride mode afterwards. Scoring the minimum required becomes increasingly difficult but the developers have a talent for easing the difficulty curve in. It is neither a frustrating nor time consuming to complete the game. Rather, the progress made is gradual and ultimately, pleasant instead of nerve-wracking.
Racer even includes a desktop PC editor that lets you craft new levels into the game but there isn’t an option to add different bikes types of bikes or AI racers with different mentalities. Another problem is in the difficulty balance. The stunt racing is noticeably more difficult than the regular mode, although both can hardly be considered impossible. Since Racer does little to penalize you for failing, this slight flaw can be overlooked. The zealous amongst you might even find cheat codes to get around that problem altogether.
This is the first handheld racing game in recent memory that isn’t necessarily about coming in first place, which is a pleasant switch from the usual racing fare. Like Project Gotham Racing, it introduces an unexpected spin to achieving victory. In the final analysis, Racer is a successful stab at the motocross and stunt racing genre by Digital Concepts. There’s something for everyone in this game.
[10/10] Program Size
[10/15] Learning Curve