Touchgrind BMX Review
Ever since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and Dave Mirra BMX on the Playstation I’ve been a bit of a sucker for extreme sports games. But as the four wheel variety has kick-flipped on it's 2 wheel sibling grinded to a halt a long time ago. Long development times and the high cost of rolling out games on consoles means less developers take a gamble and the less popular sports have taken a back seat. All I can say is it’s a shame BMX gaming died in the late 90s.
Don’t worry though, the guys over at Illusion Labs feel our pain and after having huge success with one extreme sports game they've decided to resurrect the 2 wheel variety with their new app, Touchgrind BMX.
I didn't realise it at the time but each of the challenges was morphing me into the next Dave Mirra!
Touchgrind BMX hands you the control of a BMX, allowing you to catch air Matt Hoffman style. The first thing to mention has to be the controls. Two hidden hotspots are positioned on your bike and you use your fingers on these to control your bike. The hotspot over the saddle gets you moving and the one on the crossbar controls your direction. Both buttons are combined together to pull off tricks, using different swipes to flip, spin and jump your way through each level. They're very intuitive but do take a little bit of time to get used to.
Although you control the direction you're pointing (using left and right swipes over the handlebar), there is some help getting you around each of the courses, any straying offline from the set route and you'll be given a gentle nudge back in the right direction. I loved this feature, a little help staying on course removes the frustration of random crashes without interrupting the gameplay.
Once you know where you’re going and how to get there you can start hitting jumps and this is when the fun starts. Using the controls you swipe and slide your fingers to pull off tricks. Each trick awards you points, the more difficult the trick, the more points you rack up. Early days have you eating dirt more than landing sweet jumps but a little persistence does pay off. My advice is to start off with one trick per jump, as you nail these you can get technical and try combining two of the same trick. I also found experimenting with different finger positions helped me work out what I had the most success with (I eventually settled on using my thumbs with my iPhone on the floor, success guaranteed!)
The more you play Touchgrind BMX the more you realise just how clever the people over at Illusion Labs are. After a while the control scheme feels so natural and you can't imagine playing the game any other way.
When the tricks start to become second nature you can start linking them together and once you're mixing it up you start laying down the multipliers. Scoring over 10,000 in a jump gives you a multiplier to boost your total. If you hit 5 jumps and score over 10,000 off each jump you’ll max out your multiplier. A maxed out multiplier slows down time, allowing you to pull off more tricks out of jumps. When you get to this stage you can start chasing the gold medals which are used to award adrenaline (points) and unlock new levels.
Each level has 3 medals that are awarded through scoring points. Along with the kudos of getting a medal you also unlock 25 adrenaline points to boost your adrenaline meter. Get enough points and you can freewheel it over to a new level. Adrenaline points can also be scored by pulling off specific tricks during a course, so there's plenty of opportunity to open that next level.
The graphics are crisp and vibrant, the sounds excellent and the level design means each of the levels has it's own unique feel and style. The ability to unlock new bikes and change your paint job adds to the depth but what really stands out in the game is the progression system. The developers know everyone needs a bit of time to learn the controls and by locking levels and using challenges to achieve adrenaline, they're helping us master the controls while we're having fun.
Illusion Labs have taken a risk to bring us something different and it's paid off big time. BMX gaming is firmly back on the map so get ready to tailwhip, barspin and 360 flip your way to two wheel addiction.