Bike or Die! 2 in Review: Have Fun and Die Trying

Die needs to be bigger...

Die needs to be bigger...

Excite Bike, California Games, Skate or Die… Bike or Die

Bike or Die 2.

It has been a long time coming but extreme bicycling from the comfort of your living room sofa or bus seat has landed at an iPhone near you. Bike or Die 2 is the follow up to Bike or Die for Palm OS that should doubtless be called, ‘Bike and Die’. It is 2500 levels of biking death that stretches the genre of physics simulators to new and bloody lengths.

Let’s take a look at the features: From Chillingo’s iPhone Bike or Die! 2 webpage.

The best 3D game for the iPhone and iPod Touch has arrived! Bike Or Die 2 features hours of biking fun with tons of levels to play!

iPhone gaming doesn’t get better than this!

Bike or Die 2 for iPhone Features include:

Thrilling biking action
Physics-based bike simulation
3D biking levels and environments
Challenging level design
Zooming effects
Loads of iphone specific touch controls
Over 2500 levels!
Improved performance
Background music
Customizable bike appearance
Record and replay your best games
On-line Hall of Fame with Time Trial and Freestyle Competitions
Bike or Die! 2.0 is also available for Palm

3... 2... 1:  Launch

3... 2... 1: Launch

Presentation and Gameplay (Note to self: Start Review here…)
Gaming necessitates addiction whether in gameplay or eye candy and Bike or Die! 2 delivers on both. It is a cartoony and violent sport game that is both funny and challenging that reeks of classic Stick Death. (www.stickdeath.com).

Bike or Die! 2 brings the excellent gameplay of Bike or Die! to the POWERVR chipset in the iPhone with wonderful high-speed graphics. The outcome is one of the smoothest 3D modelled games on the iPhone. Every movement is fluid and exactingly detailed. The wheels rotate, the driver frantically looks back and forward as he moves and the bike flexes (albeit way too much) realistically; debris flies up from the wheels and when you do a particularly gnarly move, blood and dirt mix to create a fine powdery rain that falls like morbid party confetti.

Checkpoint 1:  Exploded Head - complete

Checkpoint 1: Exploded Head - complete

This game is fun, both to play and to watch. Fiendishly so. Since the player must allow the terrain, obstacles, tyres and bicycle each to react to the other, it is very hard. The bike flexes and stretches in jumps and vibrates to sudden death stops. It flips and revolves around sick axes all of which you control by balancing the bike either forward or backward – and nothing at all on the course is your friend. It sounds simple doesn’t it?

Well, there are no accelerometer controls this time unless you include changing screen orientation from landscape to portrait or flip the screen 180 degrees. However, it has loads of touching. Loads. Go, Stop, Pause, Menu, Major Zoom, Navigation Star, Replay/Review, Change Direction, Lean Back, Lean Forward and Change Direction. Each of the controls are represented by virtual buttons on the screen which must be tapped, pressed or brushed in order to maintain balance and ultimately conquer the level. The last part is hard. While each touch works fine, each is in its own way counterintuitive because the iPhone sports no physical buttons. It is hard to react, making Bike or Die! 2 one of the more frustrating games on the platform that may benefit from a revamped control scheme.

I am happy to say however, that the sound and music system in Bike or Die! 2 is a fun and refreshing rip. There are fast and furious riffs that rely on electrical instruments and throw backs to 80’s style electronic instruments. Music is fun in Bike or Die! 2 but you should be warned that it is not work friendly as it makes use of colourful metaphors. The sound effects are not as full of nostalgia but showcase the platform well. You will hear grunts and body slams, a creaking bike frame and the duff tyres bottom out after a massive jump. Warps have effects and sticky walls. The game is alive with effects even as your rider dies in his many tries to conquer level after level. Overall, well done Toyspring.

Options options
I love Bike or Die! 2. I do, but the menu system dearth of design innovation is unfortunate. As you can see from the screenie, the menu is none other than the iPhone settings menu transposed directly into the game. There are no design elements from Bike or Die! 2: no charm, no humour, no blood. While this look is great in professional applications or in system preferences but in Bike or Die! 2, it cheapens the game atmosphere. Toyspring’s design team have proven their prowess with physics and course design and even half-hearted sound effects and I hope they will spend some time on the menu system.

Yawn...

Yawn...

Keeping up with the Genres
Upon first playing Bike or Die! 2, my first excited thought was that it was a tweaked version possibly the best trick bike game: California Games for the Atari Lynx. Here is a look at BMX for the Lynx, though not the best gameplay video. The only problem is that upon reflection and a good bit of Handy emulation, the Lynx version stands up very tall indeed to Bike or Die! 2 even with 20 years between them. They both offer the player with impossible and death-defying moves performed by the intrepid stuntman. BMX however is spot on with precise controls and the simplest of physics engines.

As a physics simulator, Bike or Die! 2 follows a now time-honoured pattern: exaggeration, exaggeration, exaggeration. Nearly the whole host of this genre could be made into hyperbolic stories where the god-like user performs god-like moves with any variety of items. In Bike or Die! 2, you will bend your rider around rocks, impale him on poles and cause head trauma from contact with any scenery at all while conquering superhuman jumps, wall rides and flips.  If you enjoy ragdoll physics:  you will love watching your beloved stuntman being thrown around like a sinew-less bag – it’s half the fun.

My favourite portion of Bike or Die! 2’s physics is the angles you can hit walls at or truly impossible jumps and flips. I ride road (a beautiful Marinoni) but am no stuntman so when I play Bike or Die! 2, I am fully elated. The same exultation that I experience when healflipping a rail in TouchGrind I find when landing a 720 in Bike or Die! 2. Most physics games feel much more like tech demos where you explore the cool iPhone and not the cool game. Bike or Die! 2 is not a demo, it is a game.

gamesbod2angle

Conclusion
I feel that as much as Bike or Die! 2 could be great, it is tied down only by its over-the-top physics engine and ugly menu system to make it classic-level gameplay. Only time will tell if it will like California Games BMX for the Lynx, become benchmark in the genre of overdone sports games. While not the perfect hit, Bike or Die! 2 is a worthy title that expresses an ambitious engine, smashing graphics and a great selection of levels. I would love to give it a Grab rating but must settle on a Tap.

tap

appstoreicon

Next ArticleCompareMe in Review- A Tool for Hard Times?