Game Review #151: Pumped BMX Pro (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B.
Developer: Yeah Us! Games Publisher: Curve Digital Category: Sports, Arcade Release Date: 02.07.19
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Pumped BMX Pro from the Nintendo eShop here.
I know folks who, if their playtime was added all together, have spent months of their life playing the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. A very few of them even gave Dave Mirra BMX a try, although that series in general was less popular. Personally, Jet Grind Radio is the only game anywhere near that genre I have any extended experience with. Sports games in general are something that have never appealed to me; it’s easily my least favorite gaming genre. With that said, I did approach Pumped BMX Pro with an open mind. It’s the latest in a line of games that started on mobile but has since made the jump to PC and consoles. It boasts 60 levels, tons of achievements, several real-life BMX pros, and the opportunity to customize your own bike to go along with its physics-based gameplay. I don’t know if it changed my interest in sports titles, really, but it has its positive aspects.
Tricks and Flips
In the main menu you can choose a rider and bike to ride during the game, but as near as I can tell that doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way except aesthetically. Pressing the A button starts your bike going forward; holding it down makes you go faster. If you let go just as you go up a ramp, you can get extra air. While in the air you can use either the left or right sticks or the ZR button to perform tricks. Hitting the A button when you’re in the air after hitting the apex of your jump will send you into a dive, gaining speed for when you make your landing. If you land cleanly, you’ll have a lot more speed when you come down which will enable you to make even bigger jumps. Eventually, rails are added for grinding and you learn how to lean on one wheel and do manuals and whatever (see my hip BMX lingo there?). The theory of the game is pretty simple, and when you pull off a run perfectly it feels good. But there’s that word “when.” That’s a funny word sometimes.
Slamming Into a Wall is Physics, Too
The main problem with the gameplay is that it is too frequently frustrating more than challenging. Holding A on the ground is supposed to speed you up, but it’s tough to tell how much faster you’re actually going; certainly it never gets you going fast enough to launch you over the bigger jumps. For that you need to dive. But doing tricks reduces your available diving distance, cutting your speed. Also, letting go of A at the last second when going off a jump is supposed to increase your jump distance, but again it’s hard to tell how much effect it has. Hitting the ground at the wrong angle will murder your momentum if you’re even a degree off on the landing, leading to the same problems with not having enough speed to clear a jump. Additionally it’s hard to gauge how much speed is enough to get over a jump.
Before I even got out of the first batch of tracks I had to restart runs dozens of times before I actually got the timing right, and there were honestly times that I believed it was simply impossible to build up enough speed to finish a track. The good news is you can restart a run at any time by pressing the X button with no load time whatsoever, so if you know you’re not going to make it you don’t have to suffer the indignity of watching your rider’s ragdoll body crash to the ground every time.
Do We Get Any Style Points?
The graphics are where Pumped BMX Pro’s mobile pedigree is most apparent. Characters, bikes, and backgrounds are very simply rendered in 3D models and viewed from a 2D perspective. The animations are incredibly smooth, which is great for executing tricks, but the models aren’t of the highest definition. The edges look especially rough while playing on a TV in docked mode. The graphics would be great for a mobile game, but on a modern console they leave something to be desired. Also, half the riders aren’t wearing helmets. Didn’t anybody think of the children?! The soundtrack is made of somewhat forgettable tracks that really ground on my nerves after the hundredth loop when I was really having trouble making it through a level.
I’m Not That Pumped for BMX
So I said in the open I’m not all that excited by sports games, but I don’t think that colored my opinion of Pumped BMX Pro. The controls are simple enough to understand and it’s an easy game to just pick up and play. The load times are basically nonexistent, which, considering how many times I had to replay most levels to actually finish them, is a plus. The actual gameplay, though, is fraught with frustrating physics that can sometimes seem inconsistent, though there’s no real way to tell if things are consistent or not. The art direction is presentable, but not nearly enough to make up for the frustration present in the gameplay. I feel that just being able to pick up speed a little faster would fix almost all of my problems with Pumped BMX Pro, but that’s impossible to know. I wanted to make a joke about how a game about bike riding could be so pedestrian, and I guess I just did. Good for me.
Buy Pumped BMX Pro from the Nintendo eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Plan of Attack