You can't make it much simpler than this- Motocross Maniacs boils the art of stunt motorcycling to just two buttons (accelerate and nitro) and the directional pad (for higher jumps and tilting your bike forwards/backwards) and doesn't even have Excitebike-esque lane changing- it's completely side-on. There's eight courses with three difficulty settings (which only affect the strictness of the time limit) and while that doesn't sound like much, there's plenty of variety here. They start out fairly easy, with obstacles like loop-de-loops, small rocks and sand traps that aren't too taxing to navigate (just as long as you remember to land properly, otherwise you'll fall off your bike and look like an idiot) but they soon evolve into long sequences of floating platforms and near-vertical ramp shafts that exist for two purposes- to stop you from reaching the end in time, and to let you pull off some sick jumps. The courses are very well designed, with interesting loop/ramp patterns crammed in to keep things challenging, and the placement of power-up items (which include giving you more time, adding to your nitro supply and increasing your max speed) is used to nice effect- to get you to do some crazy jumps to nab them. Or fall on your face trying.
Real Bikes Ain't This Easy to Drive
As good as the courses are, it's the controls that really make Motocross Maniacs shine. They're very simple and easy to pick up, but they also allow for a lot of crazy stunts you'd think were otherwise impossible- in fact, with enough skill you can avoid wasting your limited number of nitros and do the majority of jumps using just the accelerator and d-pad when you know what to do. If you really want to show off, you can even do flips in mid-air (which, when done in the right place, reward you with either the ability to nitro in mid-air or a pointless mini-bike that follows you) which offers a further challenge- in most cases where it looks like you can't pull off a flip, you can. There's a great deal of satisfaction to be had in pulling off a gruelling series of jumps without stopping or landing face-first into a wall or the floor, and it's all thanks to the very tight controls. There's little more to say regarding the mechanics- they just work incredibly well, to create a great little time-waster.
Since it was Konami's first game on the system, though, there's plenty to nitpick about. For a start, graphically it's even simpler-looking than games like Super Mario Land, with basic sprites and no background to speak of save for the odd signpost. The best way to describe them is functional- not great, but they'll do. Also, there's a few collision detection quirks, where your bike behaves in a way you won't expect- there's a jump on Course 6 in particular that looks impossible at first glance, but your bike will make it somehow as long as you let the odd hit detection run its course. My final complaint is the Vs. Computer mode- nothing you do affects the computer player, so you can't crash into them or anything. That's fine against a human opponent (hope you've got a link cable) but with the computer, your biggest enemy is still the timer so the whole thing feels a bit pointless, no matter how funny watching the computer fail the same jump five times in a row may be.
However, the problems above don't detract from Motocross Maniacs's strengths- it's a game with easy-to-grasp mechanics, and from there the game challenges your mastery of said mechanics very well, especially on the higher difficulties (Courses 7 and 8 in particular are brutal). What makes it work as a portable game is that, even if you haven't played it in a while, you can get your bearings back again very quickly, making it an ideal game to get out for five or ten minutes every now and then. It's telling that, after having not playing the game for a very long time, I instantly got back into the swing of things and was hopping from rocks onto mid-air loops again in no time. If you have any kind of Game Boy (except, uh, the Game Boy Micro) then get this game, and you too will know the joy of navigating multiple vertcail loop-de-loops then launching off onto a floating platform.
... By the way, the game was also included on the Japan-only Konami Collection Vol. 2 (Game Boy) and colourised in the Europe-only Konami GB Collection Vol. 3 (Game Boy Color), renamed Bikers. Beware- the colour version seems to run much slower than the original, making it worthless!
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