Between the Trials series and iOS games like Moto X Mayhem, dirt bike physics games are common, but most of them lack polish. Xtreme Wheels takes what works about these games and slaps on a layer of shine, adding impressive graphics and a slight hint of a third dimension.
For those of you who haven’t played any dirt bike games, the premise is pretty simple. You control the rider, who must navigate through a short track of ramps, bumps, and dips safely. There is no racing here. Your goal is to get your rider from start to finish, but as you traverse the terrain, you discover that physics is an important part of dirt biking.
Hope you brought your parachute.
The controls are simple. You can accelerate forward or move slowly backward, while also trying to keep your rider level. A slider under your left thumb allows you to move the rider to the back of the bike or to the front. Moving him forward lets you do flips, which earn you points, but can cause crashes, which earns you death. If your rider meets his maker, you can press a button to reset the track from your latest checkpoint and try again.
Xtreme Wheels gives you the option of being either a wimp, by constantly trying to achieve equilibrium and keep your rider steady, or being a daredevil, attempting flips during each jump for additional points. Killing your rider adds on to your time, so you may need to find a happy medium for the best score.
The game is divided into five arenas, starting with the Warehouse and ending with the Scrapyard. Each arena has four tracks, and you may not advance until you complete your current track. The environments are incredibly detailed, down to the grain on each plank of wood. Each track is riddled with checkpoints, often placed after a difficult ramp. The checkpoints are signaled by fireworks that go off once you pass them, making you feel like a wild, dirt bike-riding maniac.
Hows your traction?
Making it safely through the levels isn’t easy, especially because of the obstacles on each track. Red barrels filled with explosives are hidden in ditches, so if you don’t hit jumps just right, you’ll end up getting burned. You’ll also find low hanging crates, and if you don’t sit your rider in his seat, you’ll be looking at some major brain damage. These traps can be both exhilarating to avoid just in time or incredibly frustrating if you can’t figure out the precise movements necessary. While an option to skip the more difficult parts of tracks would be nice, it does force you to replay previous tracks to master the controls.
One final touch of genius to this game is the camera. While most dirt bike games are satisfied with two-dimensional graphics, Xtreme Wheels tries something different. The camera follows your bike closely, but gives enough space and angle to create the illusion of three-dimensions. This creates a more cinematic look to the game, and also highlights the visual details of each level.
Oddly, Xtreme Wheels doesn’t offer any customizable bikes or riders. While this doesn’t detract from the gameplay, it would have been a fun addition. Even without unlockables, the difficult tracks take time and patience to complete, and online leaderboards that compel you to ride your very best.