Full-Fat, the developer of Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 for the Game Boy Advance, swears up and down that its game was created independently of the work done by Vicarious Visions for Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. It is by eerie coincidence then, that Mirra 2 on the GBA looks a lot like Tony Hawk, plays a lot like Tony Hawk, and rocks just as hard as Tony Hawk. No one is complaining, though, as it is these coincidences, along with a few necessary tweaks, that make Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 the best handheld stunt-bike game ever made.
A fully licensed product, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 includes riders, sponsors, and bikes taken straight from the world of professional BMX competition. There are 12 pro riders, including such notables as 10-time X Games gold medallist Dave Mirra; 2001 Bike Stunt Series Park champion Ryan Nyquist; and spectator favorite Todd "The Wildman" Lyons. Each rider has his own different speed, airtime, hang time, and balance characteristics, as well as a stable of five name-brand bikes that augment these traits. For your pleasure, the game offers four gameplay modes: proquest, session, free ride, and two-player.
Proquest mode is the heart of the Mirra experience. It contains six different stages to prove your prowess in. The stages range from standard vert, dirt, and street configurations to wild conglomerations that include multiple tiers and segments. Within each stage, there are 10 goals to achieve, the completion of which will increase your experience, let you upgrade your rider's skill attributes, and ultimately unlock the next area. The goals range from score challenges and grind requests to more complex tasks such as sequential gap leaping or the performance of a specific trick on a certain object--a semi truck, for example. Just like Activision's Tony Hawk game, Mirra 2 has a number of collecting goals, such as gathering the letters to spell "Mirra" or snagging paint cans. In all, there are 120 different goals to achieve in three classes--amateur, pro, and hardcore--eventually resulting in a rider with maxed-out skills and the unlocking of the big air challenge. Of the other modes, session and free ride let you play without goals or a timer, while the deceiving two-player mode lets you and a friend collect stars or vie for a top score using a single non-linked system.
What Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 lacks in modes, it more than makes up for in style and fun. The game plays wonderfully. On the ground or while landing, the directional pad controls acceleration, steering, and the performance of manuals (single-wheeled trick interludes); the A button boosts speed and triggers jumps; and the B button activates grinds and stalls. In midair, the D-pad adjusts the spin and pitch of your bike; the B and R buttons enable you to perform more than 40 individual grab, kick, and spin tricks; and the L button executes dangerous maneuvers, such as forward and backward flips. There's also a rush meter that builds with every successful trick or combo completion, boosting your speed and enabling signature moves when full and emptying when you crash. Overall, tricks and chains are easy to perform, as triple, quadruple, and even quintuple sequences are possible with rapid D-pad and button combinations. Combined with the number of possible surfaces and obstacles, there are more than 200 possible tricks to discover. The real challenge lies in completing the goals on time, which gives experts something to busy themselves with and also allows beginners to enjoy the feeling of BMX without feeling burdened by complexity.
The only significant hurdle is the game's viewpoint, an overhead isometric point of view that gives depth to the surroundings, but at the cost of a slanted perspective. While Full-Fat has gone to great lengths to ensure that significant goal items and course sections aren't obscured or distorted by the tilted view, there are still times when precision timing is made difficult by the uncertainty about your proximity to surfaces below. Just like in Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, the environments and riders in Mirra 2 are crisp and detailed, consisting of a colorful mixture of 2D sprites and 3D polygons. Unlike Activision's Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX, which is somewhat flat in appearance, Mirra 2 doesn't cut any corners when it comes to visual variety. Each of the game's six main levels is large and full of ramps, rails, cars, trucks, sheds, and other sundry trick spots. Sponsor logos are prevalent and clearly visible, and some stages have entrance points into underground or indoor areas, such as a parking lot or a drained swimming pool. They say seeing is believing, and you really must see Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 in motion to appreciate it--it's that fast, that fluid, and that realistic.
In comparison, the game's soundtrack isn't nearly as spectacular as its gameplay or visuals. This isn't to say that you won't enjoy the 11 different techno and industrial music selections, or that you won't be impressed by the wildly diverse assortment of bike and rider sound samples. The overall audio experience just happens to be more realistic than over-the-top. Considering how well rounded the overall product is, it's actually somewhat refreshing that Full-Fat didn't try to get crazy in terms of music or unrealistic sound effects.
People hunting for an excellent portable BMX game aren't going to split hairs over repetitious music anyway, especially those wishing for a game that's just as remarkable as Tony Hawk--albeit on two inflated wheels. Unlike Activision's competitor, Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX, the GBA version of Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 makes no compromises in re-creating the experience of its console cousins. In all areas--gameplay, graphics, sound, and overall longevity--Full-Fat and Acclaim have literally created a handheld miracle.