Review by Retro
"Let's rock, and ride with this vastly underappreciated game!"
Don't you just love it when you accidentally discover something? It's a hot summer day and you're walking down the street or swimming to the bottom of the deep end of the pool as your ears clog up begging to be popped and you find a few dollar bills. It's only a few bucks, but you feel as hyped as a millionaire because you can now buy yourself an ice cream cone or maybe even a video game off of eBay.
Biker Mice From Mars was one of these accidentally discovered treasures for me. Back in the mid-90's, I was a teenager that had nothing better to do than to travel five miles down the road and spend the night with my older brothers to play video games most of the night (when I wasn't chasing girls of course). One of their goofy friends that I never liked much just happened to have this game, and damn am I glad that he did.
In Biker Mice From Mars, you get to choose from six racers that each have different strengths and weaknesses (of course). Having never watched the cartoon series, I didn't know one ugly face from the other, but after a few games, it's easy to tell which ones you like and which ones you don't. Throttle, Vinnie, and Modo (the best!) are mice that do nothing but ride motorcycles. Grease Pit is a greasy (pun intended) human being that looks like your typical Harley-Davidson enthusiast, and he drives a cycle that has two wheels on the back end. Karbunkle is a mad scientist that takes the controls of a vehicle that looks like a crab or a bug that runs on land. Finally, the quadruple-chinned Limburger is too good to race in an automobile. He prefers a floating spaceship of sorts that never even thinks about touching the contaminated ground.
None of these freaky racers care whether they're on a highway to hell or a road to nowhere. Each one thinks he's the best by a long shot, and he'll do anything to prove it. There are three different kinds of races to choose from in Biker Mice From Mars. In the Main Race option, you'll go up against the computer-controlled players in a heated race through several different lands and planets. You'll have to go a few laps around the various tracks for several rounds of gameplay before you can say you've beaten the game. Each round has five races in it, and in the Normal mode (there's also an Easy and Hard mode), there are five rounds. Apparently, five is the lucky number for Biker Mice From Mars because there are also five kinds of levels, or races, in the game. They are: City, Island, Sewerage, Circuit, Fortress.
The races that take place in the city always have row upon row of impressive-looking buildings that border the sides of the road, along with a lot of bridges and ramps. The island places are what you'd expect to see on an island. You'll ride across large tracts of hilly and flat land as you constantly have to tread through bodies of light blue water and dodge landmarks such as beach houses. Use a little bit of racing sense in these parts of the world. When you're being slowed down by the hydroplanes of water, pop a wheelie to go your normal speed, and by all means stay out of the dark blue part of the water, unless you absolutely have to take a dip and lose some precious seconds. Sewerage stages are my personal favorite. In these, you all race underground in dark places that only flickering wall lights keep alight. In all of the sewers, there is a body of streaming water that can either slow you down or speed you up, depending on its direction of flow. Don't overuse the ones that speed you up or you could be slammed face first into a wall of spikes or a deadly cliff, and die instantly! Oh yeah, and watch out for those dreaded squares that have flames coming up out of them, because flames burn mice, and humans as well. The circuit environments are easily the fastest of the lot. Whether you're racing in Desert Storm (there's actually a level called that) or Crown Circuit, there are zippers (arrows on the ground) that speed you up tremendously, along with tons of ramps and twisting turns. Finally, the fortress levels are all bases that take place on a planet, such as Jupiter or Saturn. They all look the same with their blue, factory-looking surfaces that are full of zippers that you must run over to soar over deadly pits, and other obstacles such as fans that can literally blow you off the road.
Also, in the Main Race option, no matter which place you finish the race in (even if you're in sixth (last) place), you go on to the next race. At the end of the round, you have to be in one of the overall top three places in points, or your fast paced journey has come to an end (there are continues). After each and every race is over, you'll have the option to either continue racing or to take a break and head over to the shop for the chance to purchase a new tire, engine, more armor, or more shots. Make it through an entire round and you'll be given a password that you can jot down and keep for future reference. The Battle Race option is pretty much the same as Main Race except that you can win not only by completing the race in one of the top three slots, but you can also pencil-in a 'W' if you happen to be the last one standing. There are fewer races to go through; after about 10-12 races, a winner will be proclaimed, unless you didn't make it through them all.
Last but not least, the Practice option lets you race against time by yourself on any of the game's 30 tracks. You can play a two-player game in the Main Race and Battle Race as well. Replacing the Practice mode, with two players, you can race against each other and only each other in the VS Race option.
Phew! As you can see, Biker Mice From Mars is loaded with different options and variety. Its gameplay and other characteristics are just as great as its size. In a race, when you complete your first lap, you'll be given one of several helpful items, such as a money bag for some extra cash on hand, a star for invincibility, a bunny ear-looking icon for a burst of speed, a skull for making the ground shake like an earthquake for slowing down opponents as you remain unaffected, and others.
Even better, you'll have the ability to use your character's special weapon. Karbunkle shoots a projectile that will turn any racer it hits into a tiny running creature for several seconds (freaken hilarious). Grease Pit has grease bomb that literally morphs you into a glob of grease. Limburger hurls balls of electricity your way for a shocking experience, and Modo pops a wheelie and just rams into you. Vinnie and the leader of the mice, Throttle, just use boring weapons that could hurt just a bit. If someone is tailgating you or if you're in the lead, you can always press down and then use the firing button to drop your weapon on the ground (except for Limburger; he spins backwards to face you while he's driving forward and he can shoot you with his electricity laser), hoping that somebody will run over it and be damaged greatly.
The graphics department is looking good for Biker Mice From Mars. The game utilizes a sort of 3/4 overhead view which is unique and relevant at the same time. That view does a great job of showing off the graphics and allowing you to see a lot of what's around you in all directions. From the somewhat realistic looking buildings and bridges of the city landscapes, to the dolphins that are seen swimming in the island stages, to the well drawn characters of the game, to the spinning planet and stars that are flying by on the title screen, the graphics are usually colorful, detailed, and they have a sort of comic book look to them that works really well. If you'll look closely, you'll see something flying by or falling up close to the screen in almost all of the stages, such as flapping bats, spinning clouds, or falling flames. That's a nice effect.
Biker Mice From Mars sounds just as good as it looks. The explosion sound of a character running out of energy and losing their vehicle is loud and memorable, and so are the voices that you'll hear laughing and saying things like ''Rock on!''. The effects for other things, such as splashing through water, jumping off ramps, or shooting a projectile are very nice too. One minor complaint is the annoying sound of making a turn. But the great, upbeat music will almost make that sound distant. Every single music track is loud and has that metal/hard rock sound to it, which fits perfectly with the upbeat, tough as nails atmosphere of the gameplay.
Since each character has a different grip, they won't all control the same. You'll have to play a few games to get used to almost any of them, but any of the racers' controls can be mastered before you know it. You can press L or R around a tight corner as a way of turning more sharply, and it's easy to position yourself where you want to be, and to use the weapons like a precise sharp shooter. The racetracks themselves are just like the controls. A spiky handcuffed hand points in the direction that you need to turn in almost every upcoming twist and turn, but you're still likely to go the wrong way or bump into a few walls by turning a little too soon or too late your first few times. Fortunately, it's not hard at all to memorize the tracks' layouts after a few races, or to use the small map on the screen. The point of this paragraph is: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
Without a doubt, Biker Mice From Mars is one of the most overlooked games I've ever played in my life, and it's probably Konami's most overlooked title of all. It has a lot of tracks to race on at any time, more than enough options, and its graphics and sounds couldn't fit better with the fast paced, challenging gameplay. I'll even go so far as to say that Biker Mice From Mars is the best game of its kind that I've played other than Super Mario Kart. It would be an easy 10/10 game if it weren't for one thing. Not all of the racers are fun to use. Modo, Limburger, and Karbunkle are always fun to race with, and Grease Pit is decent. Throttle and Vinnie (in my opinion of course) are just plain trash, though. Both of them are incredibly slow and their weapons seem rather useless. But, don't just take my word for it, cause I know of one or two people that like using Vinnie, so I guess opinions can differ a good deal.
If you're looking for a racing game that will provide hours of entertainment for countless years to come for you and your friends/siblings, Biker Mice From Mars is dying to have a slot in your collection. I can't be thankful enough that my brothers' friend introduced this game to us. Once you play it, I bet you'll wonder as I did, how a game this awesome can be this overlooked.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/09/01, Updated 03/19/03
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