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by THQ

tj1-01.jpg (6333 bytes)THQ brings us another extreme sport in pocket form, and does pretty well this time. TJ Lavin’s Ultimate BMX is a decent freestyle BMX game. While it won’t convert the masses, fans of the sport will probably especially dig it. Lots of levels, pro riders, and a whole ton of tricks combine to make the one of the best GBC games I’ve played in awhile.

Ultimate BMX follows pretty much the same pattern we’re used to in the latest crop of extreme sports games. You can play in two different modes. In Practice mode you can either roll around a freestyle street course or attack a great big halfpipe. It’s pretty fun, and serves the purpose, but as with many practice modes, this one gets old quick. The real fun is in the Competition mode, where you ride a series of parks and jumps courses in a variety of locales, chasing fame and glory, and buying new equipment in the process.

tj2-01.jpg (4039 bytes)Each level of competition challenges you with a point total. In addition, some of the courses are finite, so you’ll have to make each jump count. For the most part, the levels are surprisingly roomy, and there is a good variety of terrain. The graphics are decent, but nothing to write home about. Conspicuous corporate logos add to the contest vibe of the game, but for the most part the levels are clean and simple. With so many obstacles and ramps, that’s probably good. It could be a nightmare to navigate jumbled levels.

There are quite a few tricks you can perform in Ultimate BMX, too. The list is as follows: Tail Whip, Can Can, No Footed Can Can, No Hander, Front Flip, Back Flip, 360-900, Superman, and Superman Seat Grab. Of course, you can spin the hell out of these tricks, and grind, too. While by no means a complete trick roster, the fact that tricks can be strung together and held for different amounts of time means you can put together some cool combos. And the tricks are noticeably different-looking in the game, although they won’t have you admiring the beauty of humanity in motion like the real thing.


tj3-01.jpg (4110 bytes)To further enhance the realistic aspects of the game, Ultimate BMX features six pros. You can play as TJ Lavin, Fuzzy hall, Colin Winkelmann, Mike Ardelean, Jamie Bestwick, Chris Duncan. If you don’t know at least a few of these names, you haven’t been watching ESPN2 lately. It’s an impressive roster, and adds a lot of enjoyment, especially for fans of the sport.

Unfortunately, Ultimate BMX is mainly for fans of the sport. If you can get into pulling off trick combos and gearing up the pros, then Ultimate BMX will probably keep you busy for quite awhile. You’d still probably be bothered by the sometimes sketchy controls and the lack of any real sense of speed. However, what to do with a bike moving backwards seems to be a problem hounding BMX titles this fall. And how much can you generate a sense of speed on the GBC?

tj4-01.jpg (5474 bytes)What really prevents non-fans from enjoying Ultimate BMX fully is the fact that the game rewards taking the easy way out. You can approach each level in a wide variety of ways, but the way that pays off is to find a half-pipe and hammer an individual trick as many times as possible. That way you earn a lot of money for your trick bonus, and you actually score enough points to clear the harder levels. In order to win the later levels (and there are a lot of them), I found myself reduced to repeatedly tail-whipping off the top of the biggest pipe I could find. This aspect, combined with the fact that executing tricks isn’t quite as satisfying when the graphics aren’t really nice, might put a damper on Ultimat BMX for some gamers.

Overall, TJ Lavin’s Ultimate BMX is a damn impressive GBC title. It offers lots of variety and replayability, especially for BMX and extreme sports fans. The trick system is inuitive and effective, and being able to create combos is a huge benefit to the game. When work, school, and snow get in the way, TJ Lavin’s Ultimate BMX is a great freestyle fix.

Shawn Rider

Snapshot

Ups: Lots of tricks and levels; pro riders; good level design.

Downs: Repetitive; control sometimes sketchy.

System Reqs:
Game Boy Color

 

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