Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX is a lot like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but in all the wrong ways.
Sometime in the previous century, a game franchise known as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS) was born. The game was very good, and it spawned many sequels and ports. Unfortunately, it also spawned a ton of other pro sports games that are usually very similar to Tony Hawk games. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find me playing Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX on the Game Boy Advance. W000t. I’m excited if you can’t tell. Or not. The problem with this game is that a huge part of the THPS experience relies on 3D graphics. Without 3D graphics, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX is stripped to the most basic elements of THPS gameplay, and it simply doesn’t hold water.
In the extensive training mode, you’ll learn how to ride your bike back and forth and how to perform a variety of different tricks to get points and such. In the actual game, you basically do the same thing with specific challenges thrown in. Perform 5 special tricks without bailing, or collect five stars for example. After completing enough goals, you can move onto the next area. The problem is, on the tiny screen, the tricks don’t look like much of anything and there isn’t much of a sensation of speed or movement that the 3D versions of these games have.
The controls are ok at first. As you bike endlessly from left to right and perform tricks you probably won’t have any problems with it. However, even though the primary gameplay takes place from left to right in 2D, you can ride your bike downwards or upwards (at an angle only) to get to other parts of each level. This is where the control falls flat on its non-existent face. You can only move down at certain points. If you’re too close to a ramp, you won’t be able to move down, or you will only move down one or two “rows” when you wanted to go about four or five. This wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem if many of the level goals didn’t require you to bike all over the level in search of stars and the letters that spell “trick”. Even so, this might be considered a workable solution, but after playing the relatively flawless port of THPS2 that was released for the GBA’s launch, this style of game design just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.
Graphically, the game ranges from mediocre to pretty good. I didn’t notice any slowdown or anything and the sprites and backgrounds looked ok. There were some scrolling background and all. The graphics are above average for what they set out to accomplish. The sound was fine I suppose, but I didn’t find it memorable. There’s a tiny bike pedaling sound when you move around and then the crash sounds, but nothing too exciting. The game offers you a few different pro bikers to work with and a few different gameplay modes. The career mode is the standard pro series stuff where you look for stars and achieve goals to move on. The tournament mode is an extension of career mode where you perform in competitions to get medals (the same style of competition that you see on every third stage of a Tony Hawk game). Finally it has some interesting two player modes according to the instruction booklet. However, I wasn’t able to test any of these out, but I can’t see how they would overcome any of the problems mentioned above, even if they would be more fun than the regular game. All two player modes require a second cartridge to run. The game should leave you with a significant amount to do, provided you enjoy it to begin with.
Ultimately, I can’t recommend this game to many people. BMX fans might overlook the game’s flaws, as would some who enjoyed the Game Boy Color versions of the game. However, unless you just hate skateboarding, stick with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for your portable extreme sports fix.