While Red Bull still have a lot of love for BMX trickery with their yearly events held all over the world, it seems the gaming industry has long left behind that same devotion. In fact, there has been little to speak of since we last enjoyed a Matt Hoffman’s BMX title all those years ago. Of course, there is always the ever-popular Trials games for fans of the ultimate two-wheeled show, but for those wanting something a little more down to earth, things could well be a struggle. The one-man development team of Adam Hunt at Yeah Us! Games however looks set to at least try and change that with the second release in the Pumped BMX line of titles to reach Xbox One, Pumped BMX Pro.
Releasing a unique and original experience – or at least a memorable one – isn’t an easy task, especially if you want it to be memorable for all the right reasons. After spending several hours trying to avoid stacking my bike for the 100th time, it seems that Pumped BMX Pro may just have what it takes to create that classic yet simplistic experience we’ve all been looking for; something it achieves by mastering the basics whilst keeping enough of a challenge intact for those that wish to see it through to the end.
Pumped BMX Pro is obviously a game that’s very focused on BMXs of course, but this game should have just as much of an appeal to fans of your typical hardcore platformer, as it should fans of BMX. The experience here is as close to a hardcore platformer as you’ll find.
The aim of the game is simple, on paper at least. Your objective is to take your chosen rider, of the 15 available, through six different worlds and 60 platform-style side-scrolling levels full of unique challenges, starting with simpler ones, before working your way up to the near impossible ones. The main challenge to master is of getting your rider to the end of the level with the best scores possible.
Scores are awarded for two different aspects within Pumped BMX Pro; the first being the overall Level Score that has been accrued from all the crazy tricks you’ve been pulling off, whilst the Trick Score is focused on the variation and complexity of tricks used, with Platinum scores the ideal goal for each.
For many, simply getting to the end of some of the levels can and will be tricky enough, with the game requiring you to land jumps and tricks perfectly in order to gain enough time and space to ‘pump’ your bike to get enough air and momentum, allowing you to make the distance of the next jump. If you fail to do that and take a tumble, that’ll mean starting again. It only takes one slight off-balance landing to cause you to be sitting in a crumpled heap – factor the scores in to that too and there will be many who find themselves just reaching the end of each level as a factor of success.
Pumped BMX Pro doesn’t call it quits there however, and to keep players engaged for even longer, each of the many levels come complete with a unique set of controller-smashingly difficult challenges.
These challenges usually consist of rather predictable things – being required to pull off certain tricks throughout the run – but with even more tricks included this time in comparison to what we saw in Pumped BMX +, remembering them all will certainly be no easy feat, especially when the slightest mistake is enough to send your rider ragdolling into the closest hazard.
To master jumping and landing – which is pretty much all you really need to do beyond moving the sticks for tricks – you’ll first have to get used to the rather sensitive ‘pump’ mechanic. To pump the bike, players must hold down the A button until the very last moment before jumping to see the bike clear whatever extended gap is nearby. Of course, this is essentially the same as a pro BMX rider would do when it comes to pumping their suspension, but there is a slight sensitivity issue should you do so whilst your bike is in the air, as this will see you immediately slam to the ground unrealistically, often ruining an engaging run. Mastering this however is the key to getting through the various levels and whilst there are very few levels any player will find themselves dominating first time, plenty of practice with pumping will be enough to at least drag a few measly scores out for the final levels.
As far as the gameplay itself goes, Pumped BMX Pro is a rather believable and true to life experience in terms of handling. As I’ve already said, landing incorrectly can see players stack their bike and their rider ragdoll away, and from the moment you have both of your bikes wheels off the floor you can immediately feel a sense of weight and balance, as you would expect from a bike in this situation in real life. Yeah Us! Games though aren’t trying to inflict a simulation experience on players with pumped BMX Pro, but it’s good to see a sense of realism brought to the game to go alongside some of the more humorous positions your rider can end up in.
As far as the visuals are concerned and it’s fair to say things don’t look bad at all. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not looking at a game that will prove memorable for its visuals, but the core of Pumped BMX Pro is quite clearly the gameplay and the visual side of things does enough to cater for what’s needed in this respect. There are some lovely sceneries to take note of as you traverse through the six unique game world areas; the Dark Woods, a snow-covered mountain, a sandy dustbowl and murky wetlands amongst others. Given this all comes from a one-man development studio, it’s certainly worth praising. The sound on the other hand feels very generic and does start to grate on the ears after you’ve heard the same loop 10 times over. The option to turn it down in the settings is one that I can see being a popular choice.
One thing that is a slight disappointment in what is ultimately a rather enjoyable, albeit incredibly challenging experience, is the missed opportunity to be able to play either online or against friends locally. Having a mode in which players can take on the tracks at the same time as friends would be a perfect fit. With each level able to be restarted instantly via the press of a button should you make a mistake, it would have been great to see something along the lines of ‘who can get to the end first’ or a way to compete against friends besides being another score on the world leaderboards.
It’s good however to see a decent degree of bike customisation and players can customise their bike’s colours as they wish, with frame, handlebars, wheels and the such all able to receive a custom set of colours. Unfortunately, this is as far as the customisation goes, but whilst you won’t find any new parts on to stick on your bike, you can at least make it stand out.
Should you like games that are – forgive the overused expression – easy to play but hard to master, then you’ll find Pumped BMX Pro is a game worth giving a crack. With tons of levels that quickly ramp up the difficulty, loads of challenges to master and plenty of scores on the leaderboards to compete with, there is enough here to keep players intrigued for some time. Sure, it’s pretty tough to really nail, and it won’t appeal to all, but it makes for a perfect title for those who like pick up and play games with no strings attached.