Commodore User1st March 1988
Published in Commodore User #54
In the beginning was the Word, then came Mastertronic's BMX Racers, then BMX Trials. Now Firebird jump on the bandwagon a mere three years after it's stopped rolling with their radical BMX Kidz. This time it scrolls horizontally and looks like something out of Excite Bike.
What advancements are there from the previous BMX games, I hear you scream? Well, none really. The scrolling and backdrops are quite nice. Move your miniscule bike over ramps and flatlands, wheelieing and stunting. The sound FX are very poor and sound like hacked up shoot-'em-up noises. The saving grace is Rob Hubbard's title music, which is definitely worth a groove to, and you get digitised speech as well.
There are five levels and one for practice. The practice track requires nothing more taxing than finishing in the first four, while the other tracks require a certain number of wheelies and stunts to be completed before you finish the course. It's only a pity that you are rather limited in what you can go. Unlike California Games, you don't fall off of your bike once in this game. You just lose a lot of spokes.
You have to watch a couple of readouts pretty carefully if you want to survive. You have energy which is divided into three coloured sections: white, yellow and red. As your energy in each section runs out, you slow down until finally it's game over. The other readout is of the amount of spokes you have left. If you make a foul up, you have to pay for it in the ol' wheel spindles. A mistimed wheelie for instance which leaves flat on a forty-fie degree ramp will cost you twenty spokes, while a mistimed stunt might only cost you ten, depending on how badly you make a hash of things. Your spokes and energy can be replenished during a race by finding spare wheels and coke cans.
To perform a wheelie, all you have to do is press and hold the fire button, then release it at the high point of the movement. Performing a stunt is much harder; this entails pressing fire the moment you hit a ramp, which catapults you high into the air; following this you've got to rotate the bike's wheel up a bit until the biker starts flashing [Ooer! - Ed] then press fire to do the stunt. Now comes the tricky bit, you have to get the bike horizontal again before you hit the ground. This may all sound a trifle easy, but you're up against the clock and six other riders, so it's not plain sailing.
One thing to watch out for are ramps that start off steep then flatten out on the opposite side; if you're not wary of what's going on you might not notice yourself being launched into mid-air only to come crashing down and going A over T. The other bikes can also prove hazardous to health, as a large bunch of them tend to cluster around you at once causing a heavy bout of psychotic subtraction to take place on the number of spokes you have remaining. They're not that intelligent though, for the best part of the race all you can hear is a loud bong as a biker takes off then fouls up his landing.
I didn't get the push from BMX Kids to go out and do it, so my old BMX is still rusting under the garden stairs. I did find it entertaining at first, but as the game progressed and I mastered the stunts and wheelies, it became progressively easier with the result that I had nearly finished the whole game in one night. Not bad for the money asked, I suppose, but not really enough substance to keep you away from "Neighbours".