Bike Rider DX Review
Posted by Morgan Sleeper
Bike Rider DX doesn't have much in the way of exposition. It looks like a simple game, and it is: players guide a constantly-advancing cyclist through different stages, using a single button to jump over obstacles, pitfalls, and enemies on the way to the goal. This certainly isn't a new idea, but it wraps it up in a polished package that's a whole lot of fun to play. An accomplished combination of a one-button bicycle-mounted platformer and a one-button bicycle-mounted endless runner, it's well worth a ride for fans of either.
Bike Rider DX is divided into two modes: the level-based World Tour and the endless Grand Prix. The controls are the same in both, and they're very easy to get a handle on: the 'A' button jumps, and pressing right or left on the D-Pad or Circle Pad speeds up or slows down your bike. There's more finesse there than you might think, however; the unnamed rider's signature move is a physics-defying double jump that can be extended into a triple, quadruple, quintuple, or even sextuple jump with the right timing. Combined with slight adjustments from the D-Pad, it makes for seriously precise platforming; hopping, riding, and flying through the levels is wonderfully satisfying.
The main mode, World Tour, is a romp through ten different country-themed areas, taking you Mr. Driller-style to France, England, Switzerland, India, China, and beyond. You'll ride your bike through auto-scrolling levels, jumping from platform to platform, avoiding obstacles, and collecting three gold coins on your way to the Super Mario Bros.-inspired end-level flagpole. There's no in-game reward for triple-jumping over the pole, but we still found ourselves trying every single time, inevitably ending up with a giant grin after pulling it off. There are five levels per country for fifty in total, plus a bonus world — unlocked by collecting fifty gold coins — that's absolutely joyous; without giving anything away, suffice it to say that Bike Rider DX has its Rainbow Road.
The level design is excellent, with multiple paths and jumps that test your reflexes, but rarely feel cheap. Each stage adds in a new element (or several) and builds on the ones introduced in previous stages, from jump-springs and falling platforms to spikes, bridges, airstreams, cannons, and more. There are also power-ups scattered strategically throughout the courses, which can grant you an extra jump, extra speed, or an extra-cool bike (we won't spoil it). A countdown in the last five seconds they're active lets you plan for the return to normalcy — a thoughtful design touch that's incredibly helpful in a precision platforming game like this.
Each level's three gold coins are often hidden in plain sight, and there's usually at least one gimme per level, but reaching the trickier ones requires deft use of double & triple jumps. Their placement also takes full advantage of the fact that you can begin jumping in the air after rolling off a platform - lots of coin approaches begin with death-defying leaps of faith.
Even if you're talented, it will take at least a few hours to open up all the World Tour levels, and a few more to grab all the gold coins. And while there's not any particular reason to go back to previously mastered stages, the Grand Prix mode provides plenty of post-game replay value. Here, Bike Rider DX feels like a classic endless runner: you'll ride a randomized course (with a random theme, based on the levels you've unlocked in World Tour), trying to survive for as long as you can.
There are two difficulty levels in Grand Prix, and the game keeps track of your top ten attempts in each, though with no online support and no option to enter your initials for local bragging rights, it's always a race against yourself. Achievement junkies will get an additional replay boost from the rather extensive list of Awards to unlock. There are over sixty in all, for finishing stages in World Tour mode, hitting distance targets in the Grand Prix, pulling off a quadruple or sextuple jump, and so on.
For a one-button game about a bicycle, Bike Rider DX is surprisingly charming in its presentation. The music is a real highlight with pumping, instrumental electronic pop and synth-led melodies driving your ride, and the surprise vocal track in the bonus stage is irresistibly anthemic. More than one tune had us trying to time our jumps to the beat — often to disastrous results. A really nice touch is that the music doesn't restart when you restart a level — rather, there's a seamless musical background that stays constant though both game and interface until you switch to a new world.
Visually, Bike Rider DX plays it simple, but it's sunny enough that it pulls it off. The backgrounds are colourful and bold and use the 3D effect very well, with multiple layers of parallax scrolling and foreground objects whizzing past from time to time. The character sprites are tiny and basic, and the level elements are heavily tiled, but in motion everything looks great, and it all runs smoothly with no slowdown. The camera can sometimes fail to keep up when there's a lot of vertical change involved, however, which can really mess up your run if it happens at an inopportune moment.
Don't be fooled by the generic-sounding name or simple-looking sprites — Bike Rider DX is an impressively polished game with plenty of personality and fun, addictive gameplay. It's rapid-fire platforming at its best, with smooth controls, excellent level design, and a great sense of momentum, from both the forced scrolling and the infectious soundtrack. The fifty stages are challenging without being frustrating, and collectables, an endless mode, and achievements will keep you coming back for more. For fans of simple platformers — and endless runners, too — this is a fantastic little joyride.