Game Review: BMX Racers (C64, Mastertronic)

BMX Racers - C64
BMX Racers - C64
BMX Racers, Commodore 64, Mastertronic - IC0007
  • 3/10
    Score - 3/10
3/10

Summary

A lacklustre title that disappointed on every level. The pocket money price wasn’t able to save this one and the poor collision detection from a game that relied on it for its gameplay mechanics only added to the frustration for what was always going to be a short-lived experience.

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User Review
3.5/10 (1 vote)

Mastertronic dominated the budget games industry in the 1980s, but as with every games company they had to start somewhere. BMX Racers was one of their early releases from 1984, but was it any good?

It’s safe to say that Mastertronic were one of the big players in the games industry in the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s. Their strength in the budget sector wasn’t always because of the quality of their releases, but more because of their aggressive pricing and the sheer volume of software they produced. With hundreds of titles under their belts with games for almost every home computer on the market at the time, and you were almost guaranteed to find something that would interest you.

BMX Racers – An Early Release

BMX Racers was one of their early titles, developed by Richard and David Darling  who went on to form Codemasters. Like many early Mastertronic games, there were no screenshots on the box. It just left the description and Mark J Brady’s futuristic artwork to sell the game. It did that admirably, managing to sell an impressive 340,000 copies across all formats.

In terms of the game itself, it’s a top-down racer. Contrary to what the box art implies, it’s a single player game only and that’s the first of a myriad of disappointments. Set over a series of courses, the object is to get to the end of each track without crashing into any of the obstacles blocking your path. You control your BMX simply through moving the joystick to move left, right, up or down. There’s no subtle turning of the bike here – you just shuffle across the track left and right.

BMX Racers
BMX Racers

Endless Runner… errr, Rider

There is a track of sorts on the visually bland course, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you stray from it or not. As long as you don’t actually hit anything, you won’t get penalised when you reach the end of the course. Then it’s on to the next… which looks remarkably similar to the one you just finished with just different locations for the obstacles. As soon as you crash it’s game over and it’s back to the beginning.

Points are awarded based on how far you get along each course but other than a desire to beat your best score, there’s never any real incentive to keep playing. The collision detection is extremely unforgiving and when you think you’ve got enough room to cross a bridge or ride through a gap and see an all too familiar crash as you hit something you soon wonder why you’re bother to play the game.

Dated Before Its Time

I don’t really know where to start with the graphicsbut they’re lacking in detail, uninspiring and worst of all, the scrolling judders constantly. In 1984 weaker visuals could be forgiven, but not a lack of smooth scrolling considering the fact that it’s a feature built in to the C64 hardware.

Sound, sadly, is worse. An irritating “tune” plays continuously as you play that uses just one channel of the C64’s SID chip and loops after about 10 seconds. When the Commodore is capable of producing great sound, why the sound is this poor is beyond me. Even the manual that came bundled with the computer had programming tutorials that made better use of the sound chip.

A Tough Critic

You may think that I’m being a bit harsh on the game, especially considering its age and the fact that it was released in 1984, early on in the Commodore 64’s life. I could accept that if it wasn’t for the fact that games like Impossible Mission, Suicide Express, International Soccer and Gridrunner – all classics in their own right – had either been released or were being released around the same time as this.

To give them both credit, Richard and David Darling were both still at school when they wrote this. I’m sure that the majority of us couldn’t lay claim to having a game released commercially at that age let alone program anything of this nature. But I do get the impression that Mastertronic signed up anything they could during the company’s formative days just to establish a regular release schedule.

But with frustrating gameplay, dismal visuals and sound that is an insult to the remarkable SID chip this is a game that is better left forgotten. Fortunately Mastertronic quickly started to produce far better games in the months and years that followed.

Buy BMX Racers for the C64 on ebay

2 Comments

  1. I had the original versions of this game, I did not know there was more than one version until I tried to emulate it years later.

    The original version had more than one life and was a little more forgiving, but agree they were not great compared to what was available at the time, but to be expected for the price difference.

    Great site by the way.

  2. Glad you liked the site. After I posted the review, one of our team mentioned the other version to me but this is the copy I’ve got so I based the review on that. At some point no doubt I’ll get the first release and update the review accordingly but in a way I’m glad I played this one… otherwise I think the score might have been even lower!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Mastertronic Best Sellers - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  2. Game Review: BMX Racers (Commodore 16, Mastertronic) - Mastertronic Collectors Archive

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