Title :Motocross Maniacs Advance
Platforms :Game Boy Advance
Publisher :Konami
ESRB Rating :Everyone
Game Rating :6.5
Review by :Ken Gagne

I remember when the first Motocross Maniacs game was released for the Game Boy more than a decade ago. It was a simple but fun game, somewhat similar to Nintendo's own classic, Excitebike. 

Konami hasn't released many Maniacs games, but the new one, Motocross Maniacs Advance for Game Boy Advance, makes me wonder if it's the series or my memory that has not matured well. Regardless, MMA is a simple and unexciting game, with only unnecessary complications. 

This side-scrolling game races dirt bikes on tracks that include ramps, jumps, obstacles, and power-ups. The gas button moves you continuously left to right, while the nitro button turns jumps into minor hang time, necessary to reach new routes and platforms. Naturally, physics are flexible here. 

But should you travel the loop-de-loops in search of items, or make a direct path to the finish line? The items are primarily offensive, but your position is likely to be so far ahead or behind of the competition that weapons are seldom useful. The greatest threat to your wellbeing is an empty gas tank. Since Maniacs isn't a free-range game, you can't go exploring for the item you need. You'll just have to hope one of the items you stumble across is more fuel. Get that, and you're golden. Items reappear with every lap, so it's often productive to perform some impossible flips to reach them. 

There are also a few land mines and other obstacles to watch for, though the game's rapid pace makes their avoidance a nigh-impossible task. 

If championship racing isn't your speed, there are additional play modes, though they have little purpose. Each mode features one new course for players to race across, with challenges such as smashing into zombies, hopping obstacles, passing bombs, and collecting coins. Completion of these tracks offers no rewards, new courses, or even high score records. 

Despite these extra modes and hidden drivers, Maniacs can be played beginning to end in a relatively brief time. The courses begin simply, to the point that victory is possible without even using the directional pad; proper use of gas and nitro is all that's necessary. Later courses may call for a few retries, but the ample extra chances the game offers will have players crossing the finish line in no time. I don't remember previous Maniacs games passing this quickly or easily. 

Of course, earlier games were in black-and-white, too. Maniacs Advance's backgrounds are colorful, depicting idyllic settings that don't betray the lethality of the course. More important, the foregrounds scroll smoothly, which is important in this fast a game. 

The sound effects are effective and amusing, with revving engines and launching missiles. The music varies to fit the environment, with the aural atmosphere of a beach and a frozen tundra being very different. 

Though the titular "Advance" refers to the Game Boy, it definitely does not do double-duty in describing the gameplay. It's a simple and fun title, best enjoyed by a younger audience. Older gamers will find little worth getting maniacal over.

This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 15-Apr-02