Created in 2001, Miniclip quickly became the world leader of market-defining free online games and is now the world’s largest privately owned online gaming website. They have a mind-boggling collection of games ranging from puzzlers and platformers, to adventure games and sports titles. Motocross trials and racing games have been classics for the website, being popularised over recent years by the arrival of Trials Evolution and Trials Fusion. This pushed Miniclip to the progression of making their first game developed especially for PC and console. Miniclip teamed up with Saber Interactive and thus, MX Nitro was born and it represents their explosive entrance to this, ever growing, market.
Delving away from Miniclip’s usual 2/2.5D style games, MX Nitro invites the player to enter the crazy, white-knuckle world of motocross like they’ve never seen before. Including 40 tracks from all over the globe, you can play career mode, asynchronous multiplayer, encounter 13 hardcore bosses, unlock five bikes, perform 55 crazy stunts, customise your bike and rider, and unlock countless challenges and achievements. It’s a modernised vision of a classic style game and it’s utterly brilliant.
The game starts with “the basics” training – I immediately felt all nostalgic and couldn’t help but feel like a kid again, remembering playing Miniclip games back in school when I was supposed to be working. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and can make us believe games looked better than they actually did, but luckily, Saber Interactive have kept the fundamentals of the old motocross games and simply given it a face-lift. It’s everything I hoped it would be. For a fun, arcade style game, it’s beautiful. The dust and mud being kicked up by the bikes, the detailed suspension movements and the environments constantly changing have kept me engaged for hours. One thing I will comment on regarding visuals though, is the choice of camera angle used. It isn’t to the side, like Trials Fusion, and it isn’t behind like MX vs ATV, it’s at a diagonal which at the beginning felt very unnatural. Thankfully I forgot about this very quickly and I couldn’t imagine the game looking any other way. It became the game’s signature look and knowing this wasn’t exactly a AAA title, but Miniclip’s first exclusive PC and console game, it gave it so much charm.
The premise behind MX Nitro is to perform as many outrageous tricks as possible, combining them all in quick succession to get boost (Nitro), and to speed past your opponents in this ruthless racer. As the game progresses you will start to unlock more and more extravagant tricks, but the best part is that the more extreme the trick, and the more complex it is, the more boost you will pick up to get you that coveted first place podium finish. That’s when things get even better.
By completing tasks and winning races, you can unlock gear packs filled with new tricks, gear and everything in between. This level of customisation is great and I always felt rewarded when I won a race by a significant margin, ever pushing me to get better. Along with these packs filled with new trousers, helmets, tops etc. you also get to unlock elements for the many bikes you can collect, as well as upgrading the bikes’ stats including acceleration, max speed, nitro power and agility. The only element that would have been welcomed was having actual bikes currently in manufacture, this is the same case in the Trials series, however MX vs ATV does include bikes such as KTM, Aplinestar and Maxxis, so I guess you could always go down that route for your realism. This would have made the game more immersive and make you want to get that top of the line bike you would want in real life.
Alongside aiming to be a race winner, each stage has its own set of challenges. These can be easy challenges such as performing two back flips throughout the race, or hard, like reaching an outrageous high score. You are always encouraged to get all the challenges as you are rewarded with money, merch and new tricks, enhancing your chances of winning even more races and getting access to even more goodies.
The game, at its core, is very simple and to be completely honest, I don’t ever remember even using the brake button. Including just races would have made the experience get very old very fast, so luckily MX Nitro includes a whole list of stage variations including races, stunt challenges and the harsh learning curve that are the bosses. Each stage has its own boss and you have to beat them through either a race or a stunt-off. These took me longer to beat than I care to mention as they were painstakingly difficult, made even harder by my determination to beat the boss as well as trying to get all the separate challenges that were included in the event.
The only real downside to MX Nitro is in regards the soundtrack. Firstly, yes, it’s bad-ass and is, as you would expect, full of rock and metal that is usually associated with the motocross subculture, but the problem is that this music never changes. I love repeating a song I love over and over again as much as the next person, but when there are no lyrics and the music change is so slight that you barely even notice, you do find yourself reaching for the remote and turning down the volume until there is no sound left at all.
At the end of the day though, I loved this game. It reminds me of a simpler time of gaming when we didn’t have to worry about a storyline or knew we wouldn’t get to the end of the game for another 70 to 80 hours of playtime. It’s fast, fun, can be enjoyed by yourself or with friends online, and has enough customisation and track variation to keep me entertained for hours to come. It could have been improved by real bikes and a greater variation in music, but this is a minor chink in the armour of this wonderful game.