The PS1, PS2 and the early years of the PS3 were graced with some great extreme sports games – with titles such as Cool Boarders, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Dave Mirra BMX, Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, SSX and Skate to name a few.
However, fast forward a few years to now and these releases are few and far between – and those that do release are not always that well received (here’s looking at you Tony Hawk’s Ride!). The PlayStation Vita, however, has not had it too bad, with the enjoyable Urban Trial Freestyle and the excellent OlliOlli titles from Roll7 receiving rave reviews from all those that played it.
Pumped BMX+ is a newcomer to consoles, and using hit mobile game Pumped BMX 2 as inspiration, it takes all that was popular in the iOS and Android version and enhances it for console life. Developed by one-man studio Yeah Us! and brought to the Vita and other consoles courtesy of Curve Digital – Pumped BMX+ is a title that feels at home on the PlayStation Vita.
There are over 500 challenges and 50 stages for you to get through in Pumped BMX+, but I recommend that you visit the tutorial section prior to getting stuck into the main game so that you can learn the controls in order to succeed when you do hit the courses. The tutorial will teach you all of the basics, and if you have played any of the Trials games or even Tiny Wings on iOS then you will be familiar with the mechanics that feature in Pumped BMX +.
To accelerate (or ‘pump’) you will need to hold the X button, and then release it to jump. Once in the air, you can perform tricks using the right analogue stick (holding the rear touchpad will allow you to pull off even trickier moves), before holding X again to gain speed so that when you land your momentum carries on to propel you into the next jump – with the X button being used the same way that the touch screen is put to use in Tiny Wings.
This control method is really intuitive, and I found that I was soon flying through the game’s early levels with pace whilst racking up some nice high scores. It was all going really well for me until I met a few levels that I could not complete, no matter what I tried. Luckily, Pumped BMX + lets you take on its many stages in any order you like, so long as you have unlocked the category that the particular stage falls into. Each category features ten stages and is based on a skill level – you will need to complete a set number of challenges in the previous stages to unlock the next category in the game.
When you play a stage, you will be given four ‘easy’ challenges to aim for when traversing the course. These don’t have to be completed in the same run, so you can take your time and go for the challenges in multiple attempts if you want. These challenges generally are to complete the stage, to get a certain score in one combo, to finish the stage with a certain score and to perform a specified trick. Once you complete all of these ‘easy’ challenges, you are then given medium-skill challenges to complete and finally ‘hard’ challenges. A lot of the challenges that were thrown at me I overcame with relative ease, but I did struggle with some of the move-related tasks. You have to pull off the move exactly as described, so if you add any flips or spins (performed with the left analogue stick and shoulder buttons) it does not count, and if it forms part of a combo you will have to try again – so be careful not to land into a manual as this will not register as achieving your goal!
After playing the game for a few hours (and skipping the levels that I had got stuck on) I realised that I had been playing the game wrong. At first I thought that Pumped BMX + was really hard, but I soon realised that it was the way that I was playing that made the game difficult. It was down to the fact that I was launching into jumps far too early, jumping when my bike’s front wheel hit the top of a ramp rather than waiting for the back wheel to hit the lip and using my momentum to propel myself upwards and forwards. It is here where the comparison to Trials is apparent – momentum in Pumped BMX + is crucial. You need to enter and land a jump with perfect placement to ensure that you get the most air from a ramp and land in a good position to set you on your way to the next jump. Luckily, if you do make a few mistakes (and chances are that you will) there is a quick restart function mapped to the Select button that will take you back to the start of the stage. Once you have finally mastered a stage you can see how you compare against other players using the leaderboard functionality that features in the game.
Pumped BMX + looks noticeably better than its mobile counterpart, with the game’s aesthetics both crisp and clean on the PlayStation Vita. The levels are extremely colourful and there is a nice variety in the locations that you will ride through. Although these are the same as the locales in the mobile version, the developer has taken the time to upscale these for the game’s console release. A catchy soundtrack also accompanies you as you trick through the various stages and I often found myself bopping along to the music as I progressed through the game. The soundtrack is fully licensed and is a new addition to the console versions, making Pumped BMX + stand head and shoulders above other titles that have been ported from mobile platforms to consoles – it is clear that some time and care went into making this version of the game.
Although I did have some niggles with the game, such as the difficulty of some of the move related challenges and the fact that the trophy list (which appears to be a tribute to BMX riders) tasks you with completing seemingly impossible tricks to earn a trophy, I found Pumped BMX + to be an awesome title if you are looking for a new extreme sports title in your life. If you are put off because it originates from a mobile title then you will miss out on a game that deservedly draws comparisons to some of the best titles in its genre yet manages to remain simple and basic in a way to appeal to those that are looking for an addictive, at times frustrating, time-killer!