At first glance, Mad Riders serves up a delectable mixture of over-the-top tricks, plenty of bonkers race tracks, and high-octane thrills — the type you look for in bigger-budget releases, not typically Xbox Live Arcade titles. When you get your hands dirty, the illusion is quick to fade. Techland’s madcap racer is a cheap thrill ride, but it’s niceties come at the cost of some awkward design decisions.
This downloadable ATV racer is all over the place, and you will be too. Across several different game mode options — single race, tournaments, or multiplayer, you’ll tear up gorgeous outdoor tracks bustling with greenary and harebrained ramps, detours, and other woodsy/jungle decor. ATVs of every color are ripe for the picking, as well as customizable riders with different types of vehicles to suit your play style.
It’s an arcade racer at heart, with power-ups littered throughout each map, turbo boosts, and speed upgrades aplenty. When you turn your ATV, you’re going at such a high speed that often it feels as though you’re turning the map itself rather than the vehicle. In fact, that’s where most of its issues lie: the controls and the way the player interacts with the open environments and hazardous obstacles.
There are plenty of opportunities to perform tricks, but little finesse to come along with them. Mad Riders is exceedingly unforgiving. Clip a sign or a piece of the landscape the game didn’t explicitly mean for you to touch, and you’re reset from a predetermined starting place. Rather than being put back on track to correct your mistakes, a cut to the Mad Riders logo occurs (which is frustrating and time-consuming enough on its own to cause a problem) and you’re quickly dumped into the back of the pack.
It’s tough enough as it is to navigate the veritable mazes of ramps, woodsy passageways, and basin-like territories at the speed you’re typically going, and unless you’re following the rider in front of you, it’s extremely easy to find yourself lost or wandering into different areas — which then initiates the vicious circle of running into ill-placed obstacles and trying to reclaim some semblance of victory from behind again.
Compounding the issue are the blur effects that come into play mainly when speed boosts are utilized — as if obstacles weren’t occasionally difficult enough to see, the rampant blur effects hamper the potentially gorgeous starting visuals. You’ll be depending on the beacons scattered throughout each track just to get an idea of where you can find your end destination. This interrupts the flow of each race, quite obviously, and is difficult to work with.
Controls feel quite slippery and imprecise, almost as though (as previously stated) the world tilts and twists instead of the racer and vehicle. It’s a fatal flaw in the system, unfortunately, and one that prevents a perfectly serviceable racer from rising above the ranks and offering players a little more than a hastily thrown together racer with little to offer. It’s a shame, too, as online multiplayer and system link options as well as tournament modes and a glut of other options could have propelled Techland’s latest into a much more enviable status, especially when you consider the market for ATV racers out there these days.