The original MotoGP probably holds the world record for "video game ported to most platforms." It's a veritable rite of passage: The code's been peregrinating around for years now, tending to each new game machine in its turn like a software rabbi administering an electronic bris. Unfortunately, however venerable an institution it might be, MotoGP for mobile was tired, worn out, passé, and defunct. You can only stretch legacy code so far, after all. That's why it's so good to see THQ Wireless reinterpret the franchise with such a heady, polished sequel as MotoGP 2. All that is old is made new again, and boy oh boy does it look good.
MotoGP 2 takes the very traditional racing game template, stuffs it full of features and pure design effort, and then accelerates the whole production to about 250kph around an asphalt track. Gameplay expands and contracts to accommodate your level of involvement. If you crave a pick-me-up dose of road rash, you can go for a quick race. On the other side of the spectrum, you can take a young racer under your wing using career mode and turn him into a contender on the world circuit. In between, there are time trials and a stunt mode to fool around with. Stunt mode seemed pretty tame (you get points for passing other bikers and performing a "clean section," which seemed about as difficult as peeling an orange), and running time trials was boring, so I suited up my career-mode avatar (named Horatio for classical flavor) and hit the track to burn some rubber.
Little Horatio started his odyssey with an inexperienced driver and nary an attribute to his name, so his first races were what I like to call "practice runs." Although its control schema isn't complicated (there's even an auto-accelerate function), MotoGP 2 is not easy in terms of gameplay; it took me a good 10 minutes before I could stay on the track around corners and another 10 minutes beyond that to become really adept and begin anticipating turns. As I got the hang of the controls and placed higher on the eight-racer ladder, I began to earn points toward improving Horatio's skills. This is an extremely gratifying process, much akin to housebreaking a dog. You can always skip it and choose one of the preloaded hot-shot racers instead, but customizing your biker through blood, sweat, and axle grease is way more fun. By the time I was done with him, Horatio was winning races in his sleep and cornering like an Amish cabinetmaker.
While the painstaking learning process is under way, MotoGP 2 will hold your attention with its virtuoso graphics. Never before has the feeling of pure speed translated so well to mobile; THQ artfully deployed motion lines to boost the sensation, and your rider responds to your commands by hunching and leaning to squeeze in every last bit of leverage. We're talking weather effects, lens flare, the works--it's amazing that THQ could milk that kind of horsepower from a Nokia 3650. By contrast, the lack of even rudimentary engine sound is puzzling, to say the least.
THQ was wise to take its time with MotoGP 2. I would have liked to see some sort of multiplayer option, but THQ has delivered one heck of a mobile racing game regardless. Now, of course, it has to start porting it.