Sometime between populating getaway resorts with the walking dead inDead IslandÂ and evoking the perils of the Wild West with the Call of Juarez series, Polish developer Techland also released the flawedÂ Nailâd, an off-road arcade racer with a manic sense of speed and expansive big-air drops. Beyond some minor additions to its already tried-and-true formula, the downloadable Mad Riders is essentially a remake of its older brother and suffers from a lot of the same problems as a result.
Doing all of these thingsâ"as well as winning races and making good time in checkpoint-based trialsâ"contributes XP to your overall level. This grants you access to more ATVs with their own relative attributes and new tournaments and modes. However, the statistical differences between each ATV are far too negligible to take seriously, as the gameâs frenzied pacing never necessitates any sort of performance-based consideration. This dampens the weight of the progression when levelling up and unlocking better ATVs, since you never really feel a strong need to upgrade. Plus, because you donât get a good look at your ride during races, spending time customising its colours and appearance is a rather moot undertaking.
The laws of physics do not have jurisdiction over Mad Riders. Just like in its predecessor, Nailâd, the sheer speed and velocity of the racing is strangely unhinged, but that feeling doesnât get put to good use. The tightly spaced nature of each course tends to funnel you forward with little room for tactical freedom beyond the aforementioned shortcuts, making the courses feel unnecessarily restrictive. Equal time is spent between bouncing off the sides of the course and actually racing on itâ"you often feel as if the gameâs gravity is forcibly dragging you down from the air after a jump merely to keep you on track. You can partially contain this last effect by âair steering,â that is, pulling down on the thumbstick to extend the distance of a jump and pulling up to shorten it. This can be handy, although itâs a tactic that rarely proves vital unless youâre looking to top a time trial score or gain some extra air in a stunt event.
Success in Mad Riders often relies on beelining through a race from beginning to end with little improvisation. Some may enjoy this throwback to the physics-ignorant racers of old, but the gameâs fast-paced focus becomes diminished by a lack of real dangerâ"which cheapens the thrills of rocketing through a course at unreasonable speeds and ultimately conspires to make the game a sort of dull roller-coaster ride. The most common frustration you run into is getting stuck behind a tree or rock after veering ever so slightly off a trackâs narrow pathway, which stops your momentum dead.
The gameâs bright colours, cheesy voice-overs, and positive reinforcement bring to mind a late-â90s arcade racer vibe. The commentatorâs repetition of the phrase âSidewinder!â when youâre drifting around corners will surely drive you insane, but thankfully there is an option to shut him up. An understated cel-shaded aesthetic also lends itself well to the gameâs sharp-looking rocky mountains and lush forest environments. Itâs a fairly appealing look that adds some much-needed personality.
The online multiplayer modes are the same as those found in the single-player component, allowing up to 12 players to take part. A sense of speed is well maintained throughout, and playing with others helps to liven up the otherwise dull racing. There are some issues, however, such as having to quit out and start a new lobby to change your chosen queue of modes, which is pretty frustrating.