Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Nostalgia For Motocross Maniacs

People that know me know that I am a huge fan of portable game consoles. People that know me really well know that I got into them rather late. Sure, I had a Game Gear, but the first handheld I owned that was actually portable was a the Game Boy Color I got not long after launch. Before that I only ever used the Game Boys of friends on occasion. The first Game Boy game I ever played was a little game called Motocross Maniacs by Konami, which happens to also be one of the earlier Game Boy releases. I liked it a lot back then, but until I found this cartridge with a severely mutilated label, I had not seen it in about twenty years. When the worker at the register asked if I knew what game it was, it was feel of great success when he confirmed that it was, in fact, Motocross Maniacs.

It isn't a very complicated game, but it is a classic example of taking a simple concept, making it fun, and adding enough twists to keep it interesting. A lot of people have fond memories of Excite Bike, but in retrospect that game has about 5 minutes of fun in it. There just isn't much to it. Motocross Maniacs is sort of like Excite Bike done right. It has a bunch of different tracks, and the elements in the tracks are more varied and, let's face it, exciting, than that NES classic.

The controls are simple and intuitive. One button is the gas and the other is a nitro boost. Holding back on the d-pad pulls the bike backwards into a wheelie, and holding forward does the same in the opposite direction. Though it is important to wheelies on occasion, these controls are mostly meant for controlling the bike in the air. There are even times where it is useful to hold up while in the air, which raises the bike during a jump just a bit. It is important to align the bike's wheels with the surface that is landing on, because otherwise there will be wipeout. This wouldn't be all that interesting a system if the game were just flat with some bumps, but the game has a lot of crazy structures such as ramps and loops that prompt the driver to do some fairly complex motions.

Other than the cool track designs, my favorite feature is the system of using and picking up nitros. The properly timed use of nitros is the key to finishing in a reasonable time, but there is a limited amount that can be used. More can be picked up along the track, so sometimes it is wiser decision to take a detour in order to get nitros that will ultimately allow for faster completion. Motocross Maniacs may be a simple game, but the requirement for strategy and skill makes it a fun game to waste some time with. I never really thought about it before, but it is actually kind of similar to Uniracers. I wasn't aware of it until today, but there have been two sequels, Motocross Maniacs 2 for GBC and Motocross Maniacs Advance for GBA. I'll have to track those down some day.

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