Biker Mice From Mars Review
Some games are unique and mildly charming, like Chulip, while others just attempt to be somewhat original and amusing, like Biker Mice From Mars. The key word in the previous sentence is "attempt." Game Factory's latest mediocre title is loaded with terribly unresponsive and clunky controls, and unfortunately, the lame stabs at humorous dialogue fall flat on their faces. You probably don't know this, but this isn't the first game with that title; Biker Mice From Mars was also a SNES game back in 1993. Well, this one makes that one look like a masterpiece; some cartoons should just stay cartoons, no matter what the potential is for a good video game. Because they keep trying, and they keep failing...miserably.
The graphics are the best part of the game, but that's hardly a bonus. They use a colorful, cel-shaded look that comes close to capturing the animated show's flash and panache, but it's a mostly unimpressive presentation. The cut-scenes are okay, but the environments suffer from a startling lack of detail and clarity, which can actually have a detrimental effect on the gameplay. The colorful palette can't completely cover up the unpolished and often poorly conceived visuals. But at least it fits the atmosphere of the zany cartoon, and fans of the series probably won't be too disappointed. After all, the characters look about right, and there aren't any glaring flaws (clipping, collision detection issues, etc.) to get in a twist over. But while it may satisfy the niche target audience, this game doesn't even look as good as other cartoons-turned-games.
So the graphics fall well short, and the sound isn't any better. The voice acting is mediocre at best, the sound effects are generic and rarely intense, and the soundtrack is often muted and even non-existent. Sometimes, when rolling through the streets during a mission, the soundtrack will cut out completely, leaving you with only those bland effects to accompany your action-packed ride. Actually, we wouldn't be surprised if the developers simply recycled the soundtrack from the old SNES game, because it sounds very much like a 15-year-old game. The voices might be better than they were back in the day, but that's about it. It almost seems like much of the sound was filtered through a brick wall and then transposed onto a tape; it's just low-quality the whole way ‘round. Again, fans of the series might be satisfied with the voice acting, but even the most ardent follower will find the effects and soundtrack to be sorely lacking.
The gameplay is a good news-bad news situation. The good news can be summed up quickly: Biker Mice From Mars starts quickly, doesn't waste time with superfluous dialogue and story, and the action maintains a steady pace throughout. ...yeah, that's it. That's all the good news. The bad news will take a little longer to explain, unfortunately. But we can start with the controls, which are some of the worst we've ever been forced to experience, despite a feeble attempt by the developers to make your cool bike stable. Many of the low-budget games we've played in the past have had problems with loose control, but while it's still a little loose here, that's not the main failing. The main failing stems from a major lack of responsiveness; you often have to press the primary fire button a couple times before seeing any reaction. If you couldn't guess, that can get horribly frustrating.
The steering controls are similar to the weapon controls, in that steering to the left and right seems to lag and the bike's reply to acceleration and braking commands is deplorable. However, once you can accept these general shortcomings, you can alter your approach to the gameplay to reflect this crucial error. This makes the first few missions doable, but once they become more difficult, the terrible controls seriously hamper your progress. Before long, you'll be cursing your bike and the controller, desperately trying to figure out what's wrong...is my controller broken? What's going on? Oh yeah, it's not the controller that's broken, it's the game. Later missions present a formidable challenge, and not because they're designed to be difficult, but simply because the player has extreme difficulty battling the shoddy controls. And that's one of the worst flaws any game can have.
We list the game as "racing/action," because it appears to be similar to games like Full Auto and the motorcycle portions of Ghost Rider. You're not really racing against anyone; you're flying down the road, intent on getting to the goal in one piece. Enemies standing in the road, behind barriers, and even on similar bikes will attempt to take you down, and you can target them with standard machine guns or a variety of alternate weapons that are more powerful. Your enemies are always the same; they're that cat race from Mars (and you're a humanoid mouse, so that makes sense), and they die relatively easily. Unfortunately, so do you, and the course is often so long that you'll be dead long before you reach the goal. But again, it's not because your foes got the best of you; it's because the stupid controls got the best of you.
The storyline is crazy enough to fit the cartoon's premise; there's only one regenerator ray, and three different parties want it (one of them is the business tycoon, Mr. Rump...get it?). The ray has the capability of terra-forming land, so that's exactly the kind of thing all three sides can use. But those cat-people want it to develop Mars in their image, and the mouse-people can't have any of that, right? Well, if you spend enough time blasting random enemies on random courses for random reasons, you'll get that ray and...um...win. We think. The constant barrage of foes on the road makes zero sense, the design of that road is almost always awful, and the giant bouncing golden coins seem very out of place. They're bigger than the guys with guns, for crying out loud! But if you get enough of them, you can upgrade your bike with a bunch of different weapons, enhancing your arsenal to ultra-effective proportions.
There are three biker mice in your party, each with their own clichéd personality, and each with a bike to upgrade. Yippee. All that means is we get more options to toy around with, which means there are more weapons that won't fire when we want them to, which means there are more ways to add to our annoyance level. There are 15 missions in all, but we can't imagine who would finish all 15; by the end of the second, you're already worn out trying to deal with the poorly implemented controls. Lastly, there never seems to be any rhyme or reason to each level's layout, and there doesn't appear to be any purpose to completing the mission. The first one has you going out for some food for the gang, but of course, there are multiple enemies in the way of you and those hamburgers. That might be okay for a first mission, but the premise continues to get sillier and sillier as time goes on.
The early ‘90s had some great cartoons, but few remember Biker Mice From Mars. But instead of helping to revive the series with this game, they essentially killed it. Nobody would pay good money to participate in this awful excuse for a video game, and while it can be entertaining at times thanks to the complete loony-ness of the concept, the whole thing is borderline intolerable. It's probably not supposed to be nigh-on impossible at times, but the crappy controls make it that way. Most would rather go through four consecutive root canals without Novocain than try to finish this game, and many would rather play Big Rigs. Hell, at least the latter is so bad it's humorous. Some games are indeed that way, but this one - while somewhat comical at times - can't even manage the ‘so bad it's funny" label. The upgrades for the bikes are sweet in theory, but the implementation is disastrous, and there's no motivation to proceed in the game.
Biker Mice From Mars is a total waste of time. We can't put it any more succinctly than that.
6/13/2007 Ben Dutka