Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Pocketbike Racer

Alongside Big Bumpin’ and Sneak King, Pocketbike Racer is one of three advergames for Xbox and Xbox 360 that were once offered as an extra with the purchase of a Burger King Value Meal, though I would not actually play any of them until I found them for cheap secondhand. When I first played Pocketbike Racer, I didn’t spend very much time on it due to what seemed like a lack of content, though I recently decided to take a look back on it to see if I had missed anything. Upon closer inspection, there is a little more to it than I remembered, however it didn’t change the fact that it was a mildly ambitious racing game on paper, though a bit unpolished in practice.

The gameplay for Pocketbike Racer takes the form of a racing game, with the unique usage of Pocketbikes, a type of miniature motorcycle which I only found out existed from playing this game. The basic controls, which are not directly explained unless you read a special screen that’s buried in the main menu, have you use the Right Trigger to move forward and Left Trigger to reverse, while holding A allows you to slide around sharp turns. Additionally, as in Big Bumpin', pressing Y allows you to blow the horn, while pressing the Left Bumper changes the style of the horn. Amongst the playable characters are the King, Whopper Jr. and Subservient Chicken, as well as the seemingly-out-of-place Brooke Burke, as seen in Big Bumpin’.

There are five different event types you can race in, most of which share similar rules. In most modes, you are able to pass through cones laid out across each of the five tracks in order to build up an energy meter, allowing you access to different gadgets with varying abilities, such as a Shield, Disruptor or Fireworks. The number of gadgets you are allowed access to depends entirely on how much you’ve filled up the meter, though you can swap between your available gadgets with the Left Bumper and press X to fire them. You can also press/hold B to spend your energy for a speed boost, which in theory would lead to situations where you have to choose between using a gadget or gaining speed, but in practice can actually trivialize the need for gadgets.

The first of these event types, Standard Race, is a race around the track with all cones and gadgets accessible, essentially a Mario Kart-like setup. Battle Royale is similar except there is no need to try and reach the finish, rather you have to be the first to get a designated number of hits on other racers with your gadgets. Ultimate Cone Trial is similar, except you have to be the first to pass through a designated number of cones to win, while Ultimate Time Trial leaves out the gadgets entirely and is instead about seeing how fast you can go around the track, until your boost meter runs out. Lastly, Hard Core Racing is like Standard Race, except without any cones or gadgets at all. Beyond these modes are tournaments where you can unlock new Pocketbikes, with the difficulty of any race depending on the size of the engine (50cc, 100cc, 150cc). Unlike Big Bumpin', your choice of Pocketbike actually does have a direct effect on gameplay.

Most game modes involve passing through cones to unlock new abilities.

The visuals are generally decent, as each of the tracks is designed in a very distinct way and has its own quirks. However, while the track designs are fine for racing, all of them except maybe the Parking Lot, which takes place within a Burger King parking lot, are ill-suited for Battle Royale. Parking Lot takes place in a more circular arena, making it more ideal for this kind of mode, whereas the other are more-or-less linear tracks, making it baffling as to why there weren’t any additional stages designed for such a mode. Many levels, especially one where it’s a construction site, also feature a large number of sharp turns, which can often be enough to actually stump the AI and increase your chance of victory, at least on 50cc. One thing I will give the game credit for is that it has a very fast framerate, which is very ideal for a racing game.

There isn’t much to say about the game’s soundtrack, since, while it is varied, much of it is either forgettable or a little obnoxious. I will say though that I really liked the main menu music, giving it more of a personality than Big Bumpin’ and presenting a more “jolly” or upbeat atmosphere even if the game itself is a bit lackluster.

Pocketbike Racer has an interesting idea to set it apart from other racing games, that being the more overlooked sport of Pocketbike racing, however the execution is a bit lacking. Much like Big Bumpin’, it really doesn’t take that long to see everything the game has to offer, though the choice to make this title a racing game introduces some potential replay value for those who are more invested in it. This game isn’t that high up on my personal recommendations list either, though fans of the depicted sport at least have something in the gaming space to work with and it may provide some quick, cheap fun if you’re playing with the right people. Burger King’s odd attempt at an advergame still kind of worked on me though, and I might get some fries to go along with that Whopper.

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