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Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX

Score: 100%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: HotGen Studios
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Every now and again, a game comes along that really helps stretch its console. Tomb Raider certainly did this for PlayStation, not only in terms of new looks, but interesting gameplay. Franchises on consoles are usually more than just marketing dollars, and the games that define a system tend to rock hard. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX redefines Game Boy Color, but I will say that it's the extreme sports equivalent of Zelda, for my money. While Tony Hawk blows minds on the big consoles, it doesn't do much for GBC, maybe because it got muddled in the translation. Playing Mat Hoffman is like seeing the game you wanted Tony Hawk to be on this console. And yes, it's THAT good!

Visually, there's a lot happening during levels that may look familiar. Certainly, the character models are about average, and the bikes run in a similar vein. The trick animations are awesome, different enough to really show off the huge number of tricks available, with great response and intuitive controls. Depending on the direction you're going, tricks come off differently, and the surface you hit also matters. The levels feel well defined, with clearly marked jumps, grinds and obstacles. I've never liked games that try to recreate the big levels they have on a large console, because being spacious isn't (as Spock would say) 'logical' on the little screen. So, Activision went for clean, detailed levels that end up looking great. The locations you ride in are interesting and varied, much like the 'big' version, and while I would agree that Tony Hawk for GBC worked hard to retain the 'ride anywhere' feeling, Mat Hoffman is unabashedly about getting big air and spoiling some crazy, superfly, pimp-daddy trickage. The music is nice, but level after level of the same tinny dings and dangs gets old. Unfortunately, there's only so much the hardware can support, but more variety would have been appreciated.


Mat Hoffman works hard to bring heavy trick riding BMX action to GBC and scores big. If you told me the best trick game around would be BMX, instead of skating, surfing, and snowboarding, I would have laughed in your face. Hoffman Pro BMX just throws itself into the genre so strongly that nobody stands a chance. Rather than imitating the big consoles and giving a slight nod to the depth we all get hooked on, Hoffman Pro BMX gets as deep as the deep blue sea, and makes it look easy. Start off with the Training Mode. This is deep, deep, deep. 5 training camps, each with 5 different challenges. Challenges progress in difficulty, and each camp focuses on a different area, like tricks or control or even subsets like trick combos. Going through training, you're given a password to continue or save progress, since each course works on a pass-fail basis. At any time, you're free to leave training, but I'd recommend playing through at least a few of the courses in each camp before tackling the main event. For the adventurous souls out there, jump right into either Career, Time Trial or Free Ride. Career gives you a choice between one of the 8 Pros available, all guys. What's with that? Aren't there some ladies in the BMX pro ranks? Maybe they just don't hang out with Mat Hoffman, so they didn't get to be in the game. But, playing Career Mode gives you the traditional beefy mode with multiple challenges in a single arena and point requirements to move on to the next level. Challenges are generally either based on points, trick or item collection. Item collection may sound easy, but getting around in the levels requires that you do some pretty fancy maneuvering. Complete all the levels, and you compete directly against the other pros for the title. Free Ride is a way to cruise through levels you opened up in Career without the time pressures, and it serves as a nice place to build your strategy. Or, just relax and have a good time without any competitive pressure. Time Trial Mode is a timed competition, racing for trick points and totals. Like Free Ride, this mode requires that you have actually opened up a level in the Career before playing them.

The points you earn in these levels come from items like covers that are scattered in a level during a challenge, or just from point totals on trick levels. Any level can be run with tricks, even if the goal is getting covers, and you'll need your trick skills to get every cover sometimes. At the end of a challenge, you're shown the total points, total times you fell, total number of tricks and bonuses added for combos or specials. When you play a level, each trick is show off by a marquis under the game screen, and a tiny point indicator plus bonus multiplier shows up next to your rider. Linking more than a few tricks together isn't practical or possible here, but trying is a lot of fun. And, with all the different challenges in the tracks you'll ride (there are more than 6) plus the Training Mode, Time Trial and Free Ride, Mat Hoffman wins you over with great presentation but keeps you coming back for its depth.


As far as I'm concerned, the mass appeal of extreme sports games is limited somewhat by the almost fanatic attention to detail and repetition required for true mastery. Let's face it: People are basically lazy. Left to their own devices, are they really interested in trying the same trick 100 times to get it perfect? Of course not. Sitting on the sofa watching TV may not be exciting, but you don't burn the skin off your arm or get a concussion doing it... So, much as in life, casual gamers will find that Mat Hoffman doesn't make much room for them. Learn the tricks, practice a lot, or you're going to get burned. The courses are going to eat you up and spit you out. Spend time with this game, and you'll have fun, but don't think for a minute that it's just a cute time-killer.

Game Mechanics:

Those of us who were jazzed about Tony Hawk for the portable can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Hoffman Pro BMX uses all the elements of a 'trick' game to full effect, including excellent combo control, different points for different surfaces and great riders from the pro circuit. The basis for any trick is speed and choice of surface. Different tricks require more height than others, and different surfaces give more points than others. There are 6 main surfaces, running from the flat bottom to the vert ramp. Most courses are very centered around connecting ramps to different flat bottom areas that contain rails, spines or pipes. Especially in challenges that ask you to collect items, knowing how to turn the bike and control jumps is critical. The training area is almost as big as the game, so graduating with at least one run through every lesson teaches you everything you need to know about control.

Using the (A) and (B) button for tricks is what you'd expect, but the number of combinations possible, together with moving the D-Pad and even using multiple button-taps, makes Hoffman Pro BMX feel like Tekken sometimes. All the riders share some common moves, so it's not like you have to relearn everything for a different rider, and the training goes back to basic controls again and again and again. Learning how to place jumps and control speed is tricky (no pun intended) and comes down to watching a small gauge on-screen showing acceleration. In the beginning, it's hard to know what you should be doing, but pushing in the direction the bike is traveling gradually increases speed. Grab and Stall tricks work at a lower speed, but rather than make too much D-Pad action required, Hoffman Pro BMX gets creative. Holding down the (B) button keeps the rider at an ideal stall speed, so that hitting pipes and pressing (B) again will dial in a grab or stall. It is easier to master pipes than to nail rail slides, but it comes after a while and makes a lot of sense. You certainly don't end up grinding when you don't want to, but the control scheme is less than intuitive. So, there's lots of explanation in the Training Mode. As you would expect, huge combos come from multipliers earned on tricks, and also by juicing up a rider's Special Bar. Pulling enough tricks without a ditch will build the Special Bar up, and let you nail some absolutely huge air for max-point tricks. The manual includes a nice overview of all the tricks, including special tricks for each rider.

Man, did Activision and Hotgen squeeze all the goodies they could into this one!? It's really great to see such a quality game, and even more exciting to think about a Game Boy Advance version! Really, there's no excuse for a shoddy extreme-sport game on Game Boy anymore, and I'll be using Hoffman Pro BMX as my benchmark for judging everything else in this category. It's fun and clean, and plays like a dream. Not that you'll love it or be won over unless you like this sport anyway, but any fan of trick-games, skating, snowboarding, or whatever, will absolutely love Hoffman Pro BMX to death. I have a hard time imagining this game being much better, unless it supported multiplayer. GBA, are you listening...? ;)

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

GameBoy Color/Pocket Star Wars Episode 1 - Obi Wan's Adventures GameBoy Color/Pocket Razor Freestyle Scooter

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