The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I was a big fan of Techland's previous racer, Nail'd, and Mad Riders owes a lot to that title. This is a good thing, as the simple foundation of fast racing and steep thrills from Nail’d has transferred over to Mad Riders. Granted, not much differentiates the two, but Mad Riders is still a fun experience.
Perhaps the secret to Techland's success is the layout of the courses and how the boost power ups, shortcuts, and jumps are placed within the levels. It's one thing to be blazing fast – which Mad Riders is – but another to pace the courses correctly so that players are tested, surprised, and yet always racing on the edge. Racing at top speeds is a blast, and so is relying on your reflexes to steer over to that divergent path you just catch out of the corner of your eye.
Catching big air is not only fun because of the vistas you'll see and the handful of tricks you can pull off, but also because of the mid-air steering you can perform. Similar to the twists and turns of the on-ground portions of the tracks, what you encounter while in the air is just as important. Techland has cleverly placed many large-scale obstacles to make sure that even when you're flying in the air, you're not free as a bird. I had fun using the mid-air steering and loft controls to navigate rock formations and statues and ensure a safe landing.
Apart from the aforementioned tricks, Mad Riders' gameplay is pared down but not insignificant. Boost tokens litter the tracks, but perhaps more important are the blue tokens that can be used to either open up shortcuts or summon boost tokens in certain designated areas called Recharge zones. It's always nice to have a blue token in your inventory for when you might need it.
Mad Riders' online portion is pretty straightforward, accommodating up to 12 racers, but perhaps its one noteworthy feature is the fact that while you're playing single-player you can press right on the d-pad to join a multiplayer session that's about to kick off on the same track.
Although Mad Riders might not feature anything in the way of innovation in either its core gameplay or race modes, I appreciate how developer Techland has honed its racing craft and made it so I never have to let up on the throttle.
Mad Riders is now available on XBLA, PSN, and Steam for $9.99/800 MP.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.