Review: Toy Stunt Bike (3DS eShop)

Batteries included

The store aisle packaging that greets you when selecting Toy Stunt Bike from the 3DS menu is a telling sign of the game’s intended mood. This is a physics-based platformer alright, but the challenge is infused with those elements of joy, imagination, and mild cruelty everyone remembers from playing with their toys as a kid.

There are no rival racers in Toy Stunt Bike; the 60 courses themselves are enough challenge for the game’s titular ride and its unsuspecting doll rider to navigate. Tracks are composed between different areas of a house and backyard, incorporating resident objects such as desks, bowls, and shovels as obstacles. While these props do repeat with some regularity, they still add to the entertaining scope of the game. To a toy bike, stovetops are sizzling deathtraps to be jumped like Evel Knievel and biscuit tins are mountainous plateaus to mount with great caution.

The controls are simple: A goes, B brakes and reverses, and left and right lean the bike forward and back. Mastering the controls can be another story, though. Angles and momentum are quite important, and getting a feel for the weight and tendencies of the bike can take some time. Tipping too far or landing wrong can cause a crash, forcing a restart either at the starting line or one of several checkpoints that tend to placed along the way. Eventually though, it becomes easier to manage feats like steep slopes or stunts.

Each course has three trophies to grab, awarded for time, points, and finding flags. Time requirements feel relatively lenient and often aren't too much challenge. Even better, time does not accumulate after a crash. Restarting at a checkpoint will wind the clock back to whatever time it was when you first crossed it, eliminating the need to fully start over again after a royal screw-up. Finishing times on each track can also be uploaded to an online leaderboard, which is a warmly welcomed touch.

Points are awarded for stunts such as catching air, flipping, or wheelies/endos, all of which rely heavily on balance. They’re the sort of things that don’t feel that awesome compared to real life, but are still tempting to try even when not going for points at all.

The last trophy in each course is earned by finding the three white flags placed on it. The majority are plain to see, but may be set just far enough off to require some extra effort or thinking to reach.

The criteria for earning each of the three trophies on a given track often require different approaches, making grabbing them all in one run highly rare and increasing replayability. Earning a new trophy will unlock the next unavailable track so, for example, getting the three trophies on Track 1 will unlock 2, 3, and 4. If a certain track is destroying you, odds are good you’ll be able to open the tracks beyond it and can just skip on.

For all the technical demand of Toy Stunt Bike, it’s forgiving in all the right places. There are some areas that can start to feel trying, but they are often set next to checkpoints that make attacking those spots quicker and easier. Crashing is also nearly never punishing and, in fact, seems encouraged. There's a sadistic fun in watching the rider flop off the bike and collide with a rolling pin or stack of soda cans. Pressing R will also cause a bail at any time, not only giving one an instant amusement button but also an easy way to manually reset.

Still, not everything feels quite right with Super Toy Bike. Landings can feel too bouncy at times, and on some hills it feels like the bike has no power at all. Some spots are also a bit buggy, and it can be easy to get a wheel or even the rider stuck in a part of the track. While not welcome to those looking to make serious runs, these oddities are easily reset-able and almost feel intentionally kept in for laughs. We once found our rider dangling by his neck from a piece of classic toy car track and could only imagine him thinking how much easier life his would've had been if he’d only been moulded into a pony.

The overall look of Super Toy Bike’s house is smooth but still somewhat bland. A collection of decent, upbeat background music has been collected for one’s stunting pleasure, but can be difficult to hear over the whirr of the engine and can’t be adjusted.

Conclusion

Toy Stunt Bike tries to motor the line between technicality and plain old fun and doesn't do too bad a job of it. Hardcore competitors will likely enjoy the online leaderboards and finding ways to shave seconds off their times, although the high propensity for crashing and moments of inconsistency might put some off. Less competitive players will have a hoot seeing what crazy situations they can pull off and how many ways they can fling the rider into the toilet, but the challenge of some tracks might not be as welcome. Luckily, a demo is available for players to see if the game strikes the right balance for them, and odds are high it will at least elicit a smile or laugh from playtimes gone by.

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