Developer: Turborilla AB
Price: $0.99 Download on the App Store
There are tons of motocross games on the iPhone, and they all have the same basic controls. Steering is ignored entirely. What the player controls is the tilt of the bike, the acceleration, and the brake. This is enough to speed past opponents on level terrain, pop wheelies and perform flips, and try to gently land the bike after enormous jumps. It’s simple, but at its best it’s pretty engrossing. Mad Skills Motocross is maybe the best game in the genre.
The reason Mad Skills Motocross works is that it avoids all the old pitfalls of the competition. Mad Skills Motocross is less about hilarious spills and ragdoll physics-- though there is still plenty of that to go around in this game. Instead, Mad Skills focuses on mastering the bike, the track, and the timing. It’s a smarter, trickier approach to the side-scrolling motocross racing game. This is a game that will amuse the casual gamer, certainly. But it is also a game that will keep competitive gamers working around the clock to beat their best times, or their friends’ best times.
The subtleties of the physics engine are partly the reason for Mad Skills Motocross’ advantage over the competition. In other games, the best approach is to land a jump on two wheels for maximum stability, then give it gas right away to gain momentum for the next. In Mad Skills, there’s always a trade off between stability and maintaining momentum. The result is greater reply value, as more skill and practice will inevitably lead to better times.
Mad Skills Motocross also has some very clever social components to make use of all this mastery and competition. In addition to the standard issue Open Feint score sharing network, players can also share their best times over Twitter and Facebook, and even send “ghosts” to their friends, meaning a recorded race will be super-imposed over the player’s game, so that two players can compete directly, if not at the exact same time.
With such solid gameplay, Mad Skills Motocross is definitely a hit. There’s still room for improvement, however. For one thing, the graphics are a little flat and dated, along with the MIDI-like soundtrack that could be straight out of an old Super Nintendo game. Maybe this is part of the charm for some players, but I for one expected something a bit more up to date. Overlooking this flaw is easy, thankfully, and Mad Skills Motocross should appeal to a wide swath of iPhone gamers.