Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX came out a year after Tony Hawk, while I was right in the prime of my high school years. I remember playing the demo that took place in the woodward training camp, and just falling in love with it. Even for how much it was taking from the Tony Hawk games, it did do something a bit different, at least enough to set it apart from the other copycat games.
Freestyle BMX really is a very similar game to the Tony Hawk series, but the little tweaks here and there makes it still an enjoyable game, without having to compare it to the Pro Skater series. Starting out, you get a very bare bones menu system, going through the “ProQuest” mode, will take you through the “story” or the main chunk of the game, where you must progress to unlock new levels and bikes and costumes.
Once you pick your character, bike and costume, all of which are a single option after the character, since nothing is unlocked, you then must choose the first level. The beginning level takes place in Dave Mirra’s personal backyard where there are a ton of ramps, bunny hops and even a train crossing. Controlling the bike is a bit similar to the Pro Skater series, you have a selection of moves that can be done with a certain button press. Circle grabs, Triangle grinds, and Square allows you to basically do flipping tricks, also spins and front/backflips can be done in the air with the D-pad.
At the start of any particular level, you must complete a list of 5 different objectives, usually most pertaining to the level specifically, but there usually is one that is just to gain a certain score by the two minute time limit.
The game itself is pretty straight forward for the most part, as long as you are already familiar with the Pro Skater series. The controls can take a bit of getting used to though, one of the the issues I had was just remembering that there requires a lot of speed, and you don’t just auto accelerate like in the Tony Hawk games. You are required to pedal forward to make the gaps and jumps necessary to clear them. Once that’s achieved, it really is a nice little game.
The music was also a big sticking point with me, I remember playing these games a lot, and I remember all the music, sadly this game doesn’t allow for changing tracks after a run is ended, and the menu doesn’t have the quick restart either. So there are some minor annoyances. Especially since the beginning level has a Sublime song, I got sick of it rather quickly. Most of the other levels have really great songs, I particularly enjoyed the Deftones song, and I fondly remember playing the Rage Against the Machine albums in rotation while I played this game back in high school.
I really enjoyed how the objectives would change for each level as you completed a full list. You start off with an Amature list, which is fairly easy to complete, even within the first time you play the level. Then it ramps up in difficulty to the Pro list, which will add harder objectives. Then once you complete that list, you unlock the Hardcore list, which does have some objectives that do take quite a while. These usually require precise positioning and expert timing to make complicated jumps. If you are able to finish the Hardcore list, you have 100% completed everything the level has to offer, and will usually allow you to unlock a special clothing sponsorship or bike.
The bikes are really the only upgrade in the game that adds additional bonus stats to your airtime, jumps, spins and balance. The sponsorships unlock additional costumes, which is nice, but the unlocks are few and far between and only are for that single character.
The game does become difficult in the last few levels, which are all competition based. Just like in the Pro Skater series, they consist of two runs and the scores are averaged out. The competition, other bikers, are tough and have runs usually ending in the high 90s. I even once saw Ryan Nyquist score a 99.9….. Which seemed impossible to beat. Even with an emulator and save states and busting out impossible moves that I chained together to score a 80,000 and zero bails or wipeouts, I usually came out scoring a 92-95.5 at most.
Either way, once the game is fully completed you unlock a single video of your character doing moves… just like Tony Hawk’s games, except this was even shorter somehow. But that is how it went back then. Beating the entire game with a 100% completion unlocks the Slim Jim guy as a secret character. Nothing really is special about this now, but back then it was a really fun unlock. It toot about 4 hours to complete with save states for those few objectives that were really troublesome, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon/evening. For those who want something a bit different, this does offer something special… oh and it did have ragdoll physics that Tony Hawk didn’t have… which made it so much more fun bailing out.