When it comes to motorcycle games on consoles, the Trials series is king. I personally don’t see any developer topping the incredible physics, creativity and addictiveness that RedLynx brings to every Trials game. Thankfully there is still room in the motorcycle genre for games that seem similar, but have their own unique strengths. This brings us to MX Nitro, a recently released indie game that focuses on landing tricks and boosting your nitro. Does U.K. developer Miniclip Games have enough gas to blaze its own trail?
There are two main game modes in MX Nitro, the campaign and PvP races against online ghosts. After a simple tutorial, I was ready to rev my engines and tackle the 13 locations in the campaign. Each area has about three missions and a boss fight; there is a real variety in the missions that I was not expecting. Mission objectives vary from getting 1st place, getting the highest trick score, winning an elimination style race and even performing synchronized tricks with a partner. Every mission has those main objectives and a pair of challenges. You might have to pull off a 6-trick combo or earn a high trick score. What’s great about the challenges is that once you meet the requirements, it doesn’t matter what place you end up in.
Completing objectives of any kind and finishing a race will earn your rider experience points. When a rider levels up he can unlock new bikes, tricks, cash or gear. There are only a handful of bikes in MX Nitro, with various attributes in agility, nitro, max speed, and acceleration. It’s important to choose the right bike for the type of mission. If you are trying to earn the highest trick score, you are going to want to use a motorcycle with the most agility, like the appropriately named, Trickster. After progressing far enough in the campaign, bulk upgrades can be purchased for each bike. I prefer having fewer bikes with specialties rather than dozens of choices which only vary slightly. Plenty of customization options are available with multiple colors, outfits, decals and wheels. While I appreciate so many choices for my rider, I preferred not to spend too much money on cosmetic upgrades
The most enjoyment to be had in MX Nitro is pulling off amazing trick combos for nitro and boosting to the next ramp. With a single, double or sometimes triple button press, your rider will perform tricks of various difficulties. String these tricks together with somersaults or backflips to earn thousands of points. Performing these actions and controlling the motorcycle feels very good and intuitive. If I ever wasn’t sure how to perform a trick, a handy list can be pulled up at any time during a race.
The multiplayer portion of MX Nitro is not what I was expecting. There is no splitscreen or online head to head multiplayer, which is very disappointing. Instead players compete against the ghost racers of other players from around the world. Hillclimb, sprint, freestyle, drag and more races are available for you to test your skills. I could earn up to three stars and see how my times compared to the worldwide leaderboard. These modes are also good for earning experience points and cash but I found myself having a hard time winning against some of the fast player ghosts.
Graphics are another big highlight of MX Nitro, they are very impressive. The team at Miniclip decided to go with a realistic art style and they really did it justice. The variety of backgrounds both indoor and outdoor and the racers themselves all look very clean. The game’s soundtrack is primarily rock music and it’s pretty generic. For some reason the developer chose the same song to play after every race and it gets repetitive quickly. Restarting a level happens in seconds and returning to the main menu loads just a few seconds longer than that. Miniclip deserves a lot of credit for the effort put in MX Nitro’s presentation. It looks like a game you might find on a store shelf for double the price.
As much fun as the game is, there was quite a bit of frustration to be had as well. The campaign is extremely linear; so much so that you cannot proceed unless you complete the current level. A player may be great at regular races, but when it’s time for a trick freestyle level, they could hit a complete roadblock if their skills aren’t up to par. There’s no way to jump around to different locations and come back later. If you can’t beat a level you are literally stuck replaying it, or ghost multiplayer, until you beat it. I also raged a few times at the rubber banding A.I.; many times I was 2 seconds from beating the CPU when they make a miraculous comeback and win.
MX Nitro is an interesting game because despite how difficult I found the campaign, I kept retrying, sometimes spending an hour on a single level. The action just kept flowing with near-instant restarts and fun trick combos. Two things will turn a lot of players off, however: lack of true multiplayer and price. The asking price of $19.99 USD is a bit steep, but given how a single level can take dozens of retries, many should get their money’s worth. In the end, what you are getting is a racing game that’s more like BMX Pumped (a great game, btw) with a Trials look.