Extreme sports have never really made a mark on me. Whenever such competitions would air on television, it wouldn't take long before I decided to switch the channel. Considering this, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that my experience in playing the video game equivalent has consisted of spending a few minutes on different occasions trying out a Tony Hawks Pro Skater title on demonstration in a store. Yet this isn't to say that Ive completely rejected such titles. To be honest, I simply never really took the time to sit down and play one of them. Still, I wasn't blind to the praise and popularity to which Activation's Tony Hawk and Co. line of games have been subjected. Indeed it would now seem that anyone deliberately overlooking what has become such a mainstream genre is in store for an "Incomplete" in modern console gaming 101. Hence, seeing as how ignorant I had been all this time in that department (among others) I decided to try out one of these games, which turned out to be Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2. What I quickly learned proved a theory that would always resurface every time I played the Tony Hawk title on demo: for the uninitiated, such games cannot be truly appreciated by playing them for only a brief amount of time. This partially explains why it took me so long to get interested in the genre.
In Mat Hoffman 2, players take control of BMX riders as they guide them anywhere in a large "playground" (an area designed specifically for free style BMX). Points can be earned by performing special moves while in the air or on the ground or by achieving certain objectives described in a certain mode of the game known as the "Road Trip". It is while playing through this section that points can be gained, by completing certain objectives, which in turn allows players to unlock other areas across the American landscape.
Of course, for anyone who wishes to sharpen his or her skills, the road trip simply isn't the right place. Two minutes to accomplish a grocery list of tasks leaves very little time for personal improvement. This is why there is another mode, entitled "Free Ride," that is basically the same as the road trip, save for a timer and additional objectives. While it may serve as a training ground in the beginning, as time went by I found myself attracted to this feature more and more. Roaming around with no obligations whatsoever and all the time in the world to perform combinations of special tricks proved to be quite addictive. Riders possess a certain number of signature moves proper to them, which adds some variety to the free style experience.
As I had expected, for anyone new to this type of game, the controls aren't exactly friendly in the beginning. At first, Mat Hoffman, my rider of choice, spent more times breaking his nose on the asphalt than in the air pulling off jaw dropping tricks. Fortunately, a tutorial is present to help all those who wish to learn the basic skills become more skillful. Mastering special tricks and linking them together for extra points isn't something that was learned instantly, though.
While the games difficulty level is nothing to get worried about, some of the objectives to be accomplished in certain areas are downright frustrating. Normally, finding a hanging bicycle or a safe in order to then pull a "rear-manual", which is one of the many useful techniques to be learned in the game, past these two objects to achieve a required task wouldnt pose much of a problem. Yet in this case, seeing as how we are dealing with a Game Boy Advance screen as opposed to a 32-inch television set, completing these objectives can be similar to opening a Wheres Waldo? book. I realize the game is meant to be portable but some things just have to be made more visible. When I first saw the safe (by luck mind you) that had to be opened as had been described in one of the tasks, I remember thinking that I better do this particular objective at that moment before I forgot the location and started searching all over again.
Another downside I had with this game was that it uses BMX jargon to a point where an introductory course on the subject would probably have been welcomed. Although I did manage to learn the controls and become quite comfortable with them, the way in which the tutorial was worded made me wonder more than once just what was expected of me.
After playing Mat Hoffman 2, I believe I now have a different opinion of the sport. Will I start watching it on television whenever I can? Certainly not. Just as with baseball, this is one sport where I prefer to interact in one way or another rather than just stay a spectator. However, seeing as how I'm no expert with a BMX, this title does the job of offering me such an experience just fine. This game, even though being a portable title, was enough to convince me to seek other games in the same style.