Released at the beginning of October on the Wii U eShop (and a slew of other consoles), we've spent lots of time mastering all sorts of BMX tricks and techniques in Pumped BMX+. Originally seeing success in the mobile market, developer Yeah Us! worked closely with publishing studio Curve Digital to bring the game to your home console. It plays as a side-scroller, but falls under the platform racing genre.
Firstly, it doesn't feel like a mobile game, and that certainly works in the game's favour. Often mobile-turned-console games retain their gimmicky feel and don't translate very well to the big screen. Luckily for Pumped BMX+, the original charm of Pumped BMX and Pumped BMX 2 has been redesigned to work really well. The game offers up several challenges that give you the option of a pick-up-and-play approach, or you can sit down and play for an hour trying to master each stage.
One of the most clever tactics to really elongate anyone's experience with a game is to add specific tasks to each level. It extends replayability, and gives all of those achievement hunters an engaging experience. Pumped BMX+ has 50 stages, and each of those stages offers up 10 different challenges (basic math skills tell us that's 500 challenges). However, the challenges aren't all thrown at you at once. For example you're given a stage that you must complete (first challenge), but you can also do a specific trick, like a nose manual (second challenge), and score over 4000 points in a single trick (third challenge). You complete it all, feeling proud that you just aced the track, only for the game to laugh at you and say "You thought that was easy? Let's turn up the heat." Now, on the same stage you've got harder challenges to complete. Before, what was a simple nose manual and 4000 point trick is now a backflip-to-nose manual and a 7500 point trick. You don't need to stick around and complete the new challenges, you are free to move on to the next stage, but what self-respecting gamer could let a slap in the face like that go? You almost NEED to stick around and complete the unique challenges. It constantly breathes new life into each track and brings out your inner perfectionist.
Speaking of tricks, the list of available midair maneuvers is quite impressive. Pulling off a string of techniques while flying through the air and catching that perfect landing harkens back to the days of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX. Simply flicking the control stick while airborne will have your biker perform basic tricks, but holding modifier buttons - and flipping and spinning your character - will score you some serious points and will look, dare we say, "siiiiick, bro". Should you fail that landing? Well, in typical BMX video game fashion your avatar is flung from his bike and hurtles toward a rough impact, making you chuckle and wince at the same time (just like watching a friend bail, right?).
The music in this version is fully licensed and there's some great variety to it. An interesting take on how the music is assembled is that Pumped BMX+ has a soundtrack and plays each song to completion, avoiding looping a song over and over until you've finished the stage or moved on from whatever screen you're on. You listen to several songs that aren't cut or shuffled because you've gone in and out of menus. The music is almost ambient due to it's overlay impressions. That means you won't be annoyed when you spend a ridiculous amount of time running through the customization options for your character.
How does one add another layer of fun/immersion into a game? They add some character customization to the mix, of course! With 6 outfits, several helmet skins (or you can rock no helmet, like a rebel), and 8 different colour variations on your BMX, there is a decent amount of variation to how you can design your biker. It's definitely not robust, but it's a nice added feature that adds just a bit more value to the game.
Pumped BMX+ controls well and also looks sharp. The cartoony graphics are slick, and really benefit from the vibrant colours and the sharp edges you get from a HD game. That's not to say it's all intuitive though. Although the tutorial isn't forced on you, it should really be pointed out when you first start up the game. Jumping straight into the main game will leave you confused and probably bailing a lot. The tutorial will take you through everything that is required though, by teaching you about acceleration, fast falling, tricks, and advanced techniques. Once you run through the tutorial feel free to take on the world (or just the main game).
Since the game has an arcade feel to it, and originated as a mobile game, a nice addition is the online leaderboard to compare scores against others or friends. You can place yourself worldwide (the author of this review is still pouting after realizing he's still a whopping 70,000 points away from any sort of global high score), or you can boast to your friends about how you're a virtual BMX champion.
Overall, Pumped BMX+ is an impressive bicycle motocross game with interesting physics, impressive real-life tricks, and a challenge system that will keep you coming back for more. Not only does it play well, but visually it has lots of polish and works well both on the TV and on the GamePad.