Last summer I found myself spending a ludicrous amount of time playing a game called Daredevil Dave: Motorcycle Stuntman. No, really, I was spending hours playing this game which requires nothing more than your setting up a ramp incline and speed for which you want this cartoon nutball to go at on his motorcycle so that he can go fly through flaming hoops, jump over shark tanks, and leap off the sides of buildings. You even get hospital bills explaining how badly you broke your various body parts. Once you beat all the levels, or gain a high enough score, or whatever it is, you unlock the reverse mode (Injury Mode), this is where you want to make Dave crash into everything as badly as he possibly can. The game is brilliant and my one lasting sadness about the title is that there aren’t more levels.
Enter Xtreme Wheels, a new motorcycle game for iOS with nice graphics (Dave‘s are cutesy, but nothing high-tech) and which promises to take “riders on a variety of dangerously fun courses made of ladders, twisted ramps, and cargo containers.” The press release even talks about riders tumbling to their death which, at least in my world, mean that getting yourself hurt badly is part of the game and therefore reminiscent of my dear departed Daredevil Dave (he got eaten by sharks in one level, it was very sad except for the funny bits).
In Xtreme Wheels what you get, instead of a fun time watching your biker do ridiculous stuff or die trying, are three equally awkward control schemes, courses which are terribly dark at standard brightness, no ability to check out the course in advance, and some seriously disappointing deaths. Call us kooky, but when we ram our heads into the side of a steel container we fully believe that physics dictates that we either rebound off the container, slump to the floor, or (if the container is weak) put a hole in the container with our heads. In Xtreme Wheels while you’ll do a lot of slumping after you hit a container, you’ll also find that sometimes your head just disappears into the container and your body sticks out the bottom (without there being holes in the container). When you hit an explosive barrel here, your guy may go flying but he never really does so in amusing ways (it’s just an up and down experience). If dying is a part of the game (and it really, really is here), the deaths have to be amusing. Here they just sort of occur with a small spray of blood. They happen in slow motion, but it’s a slow motion that feels more like a processor slow down than a purposeful choice.
The game certainly does offer a whole lot of courses, but they’re all variations on the same themes and the ramps and loops end up feeling rather mundane. Xtreme Wheels fails to convey a sense of speed or any sort of freewheeling mayhem whatsoever. You learn that lesson on the first course—which is a merely an introduction to the game—when going at anything remotely resembling adequate speed results in your biker getting his head conked in unspectacular fashion and you’re earning a “fault.” The purpose of the game is to get through each course as quickly as possible, but never will you really feel any compulsion to press forward once your initial assumption that things will improve wears off.
If I am harsh with Extreme Wheels it is only because it does so much potentially right only to slack off at the end. Just about everything in this game could either be made wonderful or totally forgiven if you were allowed to run your motorcyclist at speed through a course and watch him perish in wonderful ways. Playing the game there is certainly the sense that deaths are a large part of it but they’re not fully realized and it makes them a major frustration instead of a wonderful addition. It really sometimes is a fine line between greatness and the mundane, and we hope that with an update or two Xtreme Wheels finds greatness.