Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX doesn't just owe Tony Hawk's Pro Skater its gratitude and appreciation; it owes Mr. Hawk and his friends at Neversoft its very soul. Although developed on the engine of Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, a chief competitor of the aforementioned skateboard classic, Dave Mirra's titular bike-cross game plays so similarly to Pro Skater that you're half-expecting to be instructed to find the letters B-I-K-E somewhere along the way. This multi-platform title has made its way to the Dreamcast courtesy of Acclaim Sports, and while it won't ever win any awards for originality, it still manages to be a solid title that is actually great fun to play, once you get used to the controls.
Any player that has played Tony Hawk or the other games in the genre will find Freestyle BMX to be immediately familiar -- from the modes of play, which include opportunities for shorter runs and multiplayer capability, down to the various characters, bikes, and costumes. Everything about the game is familiar, although if this is your first foray into this particular genre, it's all easily laid out and not hard to navigate. Simply pick your mode, your character (and honestly, there isn't a whole lot of difference between them, despite reputed attribute distinctions) and get ready to ride!
It's the riding part that tends to be tricky. Although vastly improved over Thrasher's touchy and downright aggravating control, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX manages to take a while to get used to. That isn't unusual in this type of game, however, and thankfully, if you can overcome the initial awkwardness, the control scheme becomes much simpler and easier to handle.
On a basic level the controls are very much like those in Tony Hawk, but they never reach the fluid brilliance of that predecessor. The combo system, which allows different types of tricks to be combined, is often difficult to use, and often you'll bail on a landing that you probably should have made. Still, there's a lot of fun to be had with the game, and a lot of different tricks and jumps to perform.
The ProQuest is the meat of the game, providing twelve levels of BMX action. The first six offer various challenges that must be completed in order to progress, and the back six are competitions where you ride against the other bikers in an attempt to win gold (although you never actually see their runs, a la the skate park levels in Tony Hawk). It's actually a pretty nice set-up, as the challenges help you learn the basics and push you to master the more complicated moves, and the competition modes do encourage that you try a variety of maneuvers and tricks, rather than just using the same moves over and over again from the closest bowl.
Session is just a single run on one of the levels, and freestyle is essentially just practice, but this title does have an enjoyable two-player component. Some of the game modes here don't exactly reek of originality: even the old HORSE game seen in, you guessed it, Tony Hawk, shows up here. But the game engine itself is fun enough so that these games, while not innovative, are a good time if you have two players who know what they're doing.
The graphics are a step up from Thrasher, but even on the Dreamcast they won't do much to bowl you over. On the DC they look very much like the PlayStation in higher resolution, with blocky characters and animation that ranges from smooth to jerky. The levels are varied in visual detail, but they aren't exactly beautiful to behold. Still, if you can get into the gameplay, these graphics don't really drag the game down, they just aren't as magnificent when one considers what the Dreamcast is capable of.
The soundtrack, following the mold of previously released extreme sport titles, features modern hard rock and punk bands, and its quality is very subjective. If you like this type of music, then it could well be one of the best game soundtracks available. But if you don't, well, you're out of luck, short of turning off music completely. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
The game visuals are varied and they get the job done, but even in the higher resolution of the Dreamcast, it isn't exactly an explosion of graphical splendor. The models are blocky and their animation is occasionally questionable. The levels are very static and not terribly interactive. All in all, graphics are this game's weakest suit. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
Hard-rockin', pulse-poundin' soundtrack? Check. The game knows its audience, and with songs by the likes of The Deftones, Rancid, and Sublime, it is excellent, unless, of course, you hate this style of music. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
With a fairly simple trick system that only gets frustrating with the difficult maneuvers and a wide variety of play options and levels, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX is a very enjoyable experience. Sure, it feels like Tony Hawk on a bike, but it is well made. Tony Hawk was a great time, and this, while not quite as good or tight, is still very decent. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
Once you finish the ProQuest with one character, there are plenty more to play, plenty more secrets to unlock, and plenty more tricks, manuals, and grinds to master. Add a fun two-player mode, and you have the recipe for a game that lasts long after the initial game is completed. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
You'll do better learning the moves by trial-and-error rather than trying to use the rather useless instruction manual. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide