• Dave Mirra BMX 2 Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    Dave Mirra BMX 2 revolves around doing tricks on a BMX bike, with an initial Tony Hawks feel to it, but after a short amount of play it is clear that Dave Mirra has carved its own niche and style. Doing basic tricks on bikes in real life is not difficult to learn, although the learning process can be fairly painful, but the more adventurous, sick and dangerous moves will only ever be pulled off by a few skilled individuals who have spent years mastering their art.

    However, learning a deft trick or five in Dave Mirra 2 does not take nearly so long, and many of the tricks are very intuitive. This is the main plus point of Dave Mirra 2. The bike control, both on the ground and in the air is implemented extremely well. For example, to do a wheelie or stoppie requires two flicks back or forward respectively on the control stick and are then balanced using the stick for as long as possible. Pressing L or R starts spinning the bike in either direction in the air. Tricks are easily modified to no-handers, no-footers and others and the modifier setup is customisable so that a favourite trick is always easy to grab. It all seems to make sense and even after a while of not playing, on returning to the game the controls are instantly remembered.

    This is not to say that Dave Mirra 2 is easy. When landing an airborne trick, the bike direction has to be quite close to the direction of travel or the rider falls, and this becomes more important as speed and height increase. When landing fakie (backwards), the bike must be almost exactly straight. At first this frustrates, but bear with it, because it does become second nature after a bit of practice. Learning to create enough height to give time for the more complicated tricks takes a few goes, but again practice pays off and a healthy riff from the likes of Rage Against The Machine ups the tempo, encouraging a rider on to the bigger and therefore better.
    Simple tricks like wheelies are strangely satisfying, but the real joy lies in the ability to link tricks together with ease. Firing up a quarter pipe, pulling off a tailwhip (flicking the bike around underneath), landing a pick back on to the lip of the pipe (balancing on the front wheel), then dropping back into the pipe on the back wheel, rolling across to a fence and then grinding all the way down it can all be pulled off without dropping the trick combo. No matter whereabouts in any of the huge levels, there is always something to use for a trick. Even vertical surfaces can be used for wall rides and plants (pushing off a wall with a foot). This versatility means that the Freeride mode is actually a fun way to pass the time rather than just a learning mode.

    The main section of the game, called the Proquest, gives the rider certain challenges which impress the locals when completed, and gains their “respect” (for points). With respect comes invitation to competitions, with the chance to really show off depth of skills and respect opens up new areas and new bikes. The level challenges are very pure. None require riding around collecting imaginary objects or turning on taps just by riding past them. Instead they involve difficult to reach areas, doing a certain type of trick, or perhaps just grabbing some huge air. Many are imaginative, such as leaping over a moving train or wall riding a police car. The moving targets are a welcome addition to increase challenge variety. The levels are nicely varied and the challenges range from the easy to the seemingly impossible, but these can only be completed with the upgraded bikes, so returning to some of the levels later is worthwhile. Due to huge level size, sometimes just finding a challenge point takes time, but once located, it is fairly obvious what to do.

    The other aspect that makes the tricks so satisfying is the spot-on rider animation. Every trick looks just like it would in real life. Even at a standstill, the riders look very relaxed, perhaps resting one hand on a knee, rather than being rigidly attached to their riser bars at all times. In the air, the hands and feet flow superbly, pushing the bike around and even letting go entirely, then jumping back on before landing. Each of the many riders available has their own selection of tricks, so it is worthwhile having a go with each of them, just to watch their signature tricks in action.

    The Gamecube version has a couple of additional levels over the Playstation version, so it is probably worth getting this version for the extra variety, and the control system works perfectly on the Nintendo controller. Also the load times are very quick for such large levels.

    There is an above average park editor, that allows the terrain height to be modified, which is a huge advantage over other purely flat park editors. The multiplayer modes are not up to the same standard though, generally being a bit dull and too dependent on a rider’s knowledge of a particular level. Criminally they are all turn based as well, so no split screen action in the same arena here. Four players tearing around at the same time would have been far better.

    Dave Mirra 2 knows what sort of game it is. It concentrates purely on the tricks, so there is no tacked on BMX race mode. Playing well gives a very similar sensation to riding a real bike around purely for the thrill of doing jumps and tricks. It is sometimes a bit serious, but it is also very pure and realised perfectly.