Red Bull X-Fighters (PlayStation Minis)—Review Flying High

In real life, the Red Bull X-Fighters is an international freestyle motocross series in which hardcore riders pull off ridiculously death-defying mid-air stunts to packed arenas. If you’re thinking that such a larger-than-life extreme sport would be impossible to cram onto a tiny mini, then you’d be wrong! Don’t know how they’ve done it, but they have, and Red Bull X-Fighters is looking like one of the most visually impressive minis to date.

Already a big hit as an iPhone app, Red Bull X-Fighters has made a seamless transition to the PSP. In fact, it actually feels like it works even better on the PSP: on the iPhone, you had to tilt your phone to steady your bike and draw tricks with your finger on the touch screen, whereas the controls on the PSP feel much more instinctive and immediate. If you grew up playing Tony Hawk’s skateboarding games or one of the many snowboarding games out there then button mashing seems like the only way to go.

From the very first moment that you fire up the game, it gets your adrenalin pumping. The rock music soundtrack thumps away in the background as the menu screen showcases an amazing demo featuring expert riders pulling off some incredible stunts.

You start with the Basics training level, where you can expect to chow down on mouthfuls of dirt before you get to grips with the controls. The Basics level is divided into five different categories: Balancing, Trick Basics, Chaining, Accelerating and Braking. These are the essential core elements of being a successful minis FMX rider.

The controls are very simple: press the left and right buttons on the D-pad or the analog stick to balance and steady your bike and also to flip it. To execute tricks, you must press either the buttons shown on screen or in your Trick Book.

Any tricks that you are required to master will be shown on the left of the screen. When you start to press the trick buttons, the action will slow right down and you will enter Concentration Mode.

Once you’ve learned a trick, you’ll see a triumphant animation and the trick will be added to your Trick Book. The best think about this is that you don’t have to try and remember button-pushing sequences all the time as they’re all stored in the book.

Possibly the hardest aspect of the game to master and the one that will require the most practice is safely landing your bike after your mid-air display. No matter how much big air you manage to get when you launch off the ramps, you still have to get your timing exactly right on landing in order to avoid wiping out.

As well as the required tricks, you can also throw in as many other tricks as you can manage in order to score more points. Press and hold Up on the D-pad to call up your Trick Book and enter any of the tricks you’ve already unlocked. By chaining tricks together you can rack up even more points, but get too greedy and attempt too many at once and you’ll crash and burn for sure.

If Red Bull X-Fighters was simply all about reeling off stunt after stunt with no real goal in sight it would probably start to get a little boring. However, the fact that the whole thing is based around an absorbing career element really adds to the longevity.

In essence, the more points you score in the arena, the more fans you earn and therefore the more sponsors you attract. This in turn unlocks new outfits and bikes. The unlocked bikes will help to improve your performance with enhancements such as High Acceleration. There are also lots of Achievements to unlock, so you always have something to strive for aside from winning all the various tournaments.

There are seven locations around the world to unlock, with the first being London, where you must earn at least a bronze trophy in each of the ‘Performer’ events in order to qualify for the London Show Off and Time Attack modes. Get a trophy in the London Time Attack mode to unlock the Race Tour, which consists of pure time-attack trials in six different countries. You can also unlock other modes such as Pressure, where you have to pull off required tricks and beat the clock, hence the name!

In terms of overall presentation, this is one very slick game. The 3D rendered graphics are simply stunning. It’s all so incredibly detail-laden, from the menu screens to the flashy arenas and riders right down to the design of the trophies and Achievement medals.

The only downside I can think of is that if you only like Tetris or Mahjongg puzzle-type games this might be one to avoid, but I’m guessing that most people enjoy a little variety in their minis so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. Other than that, it’s definitely one of the best minis currently available. Sheer class from beginning to end.

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