Review Reprise: MX Simulator

I’ve written hundreds of reviews and previews during my twenty-odd years as a games inspector. As many of these appeared in the British version of PC Gamer magazine and nowhere else, now and again something from my archive may appear as one of THC’s daily posts. Below the jump you’ll find my one-page 2009 take on MX Simulator, a motocross sim still alive and kickstarting today.

“The two-wheeled equivalent of Grand Prix Legends”

The lazy played-it-for-twenty-minutes review:

Tearing round bumpy dirt tracks on a 250cc Kawasaki should be fun shouldn’t it? So why am I finding this digital depiction so exasperating?

Just negotiating a corner successfully in MX Sim is cause for applause. Lean a fraction too far and you topple into the mud. Lean too little and you’re off into the scenery. Josh Vanderhoof, the lone coder, boasts of “complete motorcycle physics” – the clutch, suspension, and transmission all separately modelled. Whatever he’s done, the result is bikes that are strangely reluctant to turn and scarily prone to wash-out on bends.

With crashes so common they really should be more spectacular. There’s no ragdolling here, riders never leave their machines however violent the impact.

And don’t get me started on the graphics. ‘Functional’ would be a fair description, ‘shite’ would be another. Woefully weak audio adds insult to injury.

The conscientious played-it-for-twenty-days review:

How long before Peep Show? Ten minutes. Lovely, that leaves me just enough time for a five-lapper at Waterloo Valley. God, I adore this track. That monster jump across the ravine, the triple humps in the middle, that tricky flat corner… what a blast. And to think I almost gave up on MX Sim.

Before I plugged in a joystick and learnt how to set up the bikes properly, Josh’s revolutionary handling model was driving me up the wall. Now I love it almost* unconditionally.

* The way steering inverts at very low speed to simulate the switch from lean to handlebar steering still yanks my chain from time to time.

Over the weeks the thirteen personality-packed tracks have become dear old friends and been joined by dozens of user-made circuits. The fact they still thrill owes a lot to the superb physics and the joyous unpredictability of AI riders. Fellow competitors are refreshingly fallible. Bouncing over a blind crest or squirming round a tight bend you never quite know what’s going to be waiting for you.

Looking for intense racing underpinned by blue-chip physics? Look no further. This is the best motorbike game since Wheelie.”