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Bike or Die Review

Developer: Toyspring Publisher: Toyspring
Release Date: July 12, 2004 Also On: None

Bike or Die is one of those rare games that come out of nowhere and use innovation to create a unique gameplay experience. Katamari Damacy and Gish are other recent examples of this type of game. Bike or Die has something in common that is the main reason why these two games are so much fun to play: a realistic physics engine. Of course, this is not a realistic bike driving simulation. It is only 2D and the gameplay is tuned for fun.

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Your goal is to collect all the flags in each level by touching them with your bike. To accomplish this task, you have to maneuver your bike very carefully. If your body touches the ceiling, wall or floor of the level, you will die. The fact that your bike is made of elastic strings makes it even more difficult to keep alive long enough to reach the last flag.

You have the following control actions to steer your bike safely: accelerate, brake, balance left, balance right, switch direction. You have to be careful when braking or you will fall over. Balancing can help you prevent landing upside down after a jump.

Learning to handle your bike will take about an hour, but to really master it, you will have to train for weeks. You really need to master it if you want to earn some medals in the online highscore competition. This is the most motivating feature in Bike or Die. You can upload your best times to the official website and they will then be included in the online highscore list. Compete against people from around the whole world. You can even watch replays of the other players’ performances online as flash movies (if they allow it).

The game itself comes with 25 built-in levels. Each level takes from a few seconds to around three minutes to complete. It depends on your skills, of course. All of the original levels can be finished in less than a minute. But this doesn’t make Bike or Die a short game. You will have to play levels again and again until you are able to complete them, even more often if you want to get a good time. The short times make Bike or Die the perfect pick up and play game. Whether you are waiting for a bus for five minutes or sitting in boring school for an hour, you can always play Bike or Die and you can stop at any point.

Surprisingly, Bike or Die very seldom gets frustrating. If it does, you can just switch to another level, or make one yourself. A fully functional editor comes with the game for free and it runs on your Palm. You can make levels everywhere you go, quite easily. You can also share those levels with people on the internet. There are over 100 add-on levels already, new ones being released all the time. If levels are really good, they might even be included in the online highscore competition on the official website. All of this ensures that you will never stop playing Bike or Die, because there is always something new to do. I’ve never played a game this simple for such a long time.

Now, let’s take a look at the presentation. Bike or Die is a 2D game and it has very simple graphics. In every level there is an endless cloud texture scrolling behind an endless ground texture. The only difference from level to level is the color of the textures. To make the levels look nicer or give you a hint of how to play a level, there are sometimes little pictures put into places in the level. These can include snowmen, tree stumps or attention signs. The bike, as well as the human sitting on it, is made of simple lines. There are also some small effects like blood dots flying around if you die. All in all, the look of the game is more functional than pretty. You can also change the graphics mode to run the game on slower Palms. It even runs on some old black and white models.

The sound has very simple bleeps. Until recently when an update got released that added really great dynamic atmospheric sounds. The crowd cheers, sights and applauds if you land safely after doing a loop in midair. Your bike makes realistic noises all the time and if you’ve got a Zodiac, you can feel it rumble if it hits the floor. There is no background music in the game, but there is very good support for the Zodiac’s background music feature. All this adds the final touch to make the game feel real. If you’ve got a Palm to run it, you should get Bike or Die. It’s the most addictive game I’ve ever played, even beating Tetris. It’s pick up and play done right. If you want to know what I’m talking about, try the demo. Don’t put it down after the first frustrating moment; it might be one of the biggest mistakes in your gaming life.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.2
Written by Ortwin Review Guide