Developer: EO Interactive
Released: October 2002
Capabilities: Memory Unit
Review Written: November 14, 2002
There have been a ton of BMX games flooding the market as of late. Activision
has Mat Hoffman’s Po BMX, and Acclaim has been dishing out the Dave Mirra titles
as well as the mature themed BMX XXX. It seems that most of the media buzz has
been surrounding Acclaim’s efforts, but there is another new BMX game with a
unique twist that recently came out which has been getting no attention
whatsoever. This one is THQ’s first BMX title, Toxic Grind. Let’s see if Toxic
Grind can stand out from the rest of the BMX titles this year.
Remember the movie, Running Man? It was that classic action flick with Arnold Schwarzenegger where convicts put their souls on the line in a deadly game show in hopes of high network ratings. Toxic Grind takes the same approach, its set in the future where all extreme sports games like skateboarding, surfing, and BMX have been outlawed. Anybody found still doing this are put on the game show, Toxic Grind, which almost always results in certain death for the riders.
However, Toxic Grind has been killing off all the competition lately and is running out of contestants, so they use a time machine to nab out a BMX rider by the name of Jason Hayes to spice up the ratings. Now you must complete all the missions Toxic Grind has for you so you can return back to your era. This might sound a bit odd overall, but this is one of the freshest concepts the extreme sports genre has seen in a while.
The main game play operates the same as most other BMX titles, but with a few elements thrown in to classify Toxic Grind as its own game. You can still do your usual array of tricks, grinds, and manuals like in all other BMX games, but there are a few added twists. If you have never played a BMX game before, don’t fret because Toxic Grind includes a short tutorial that should familiarize the casual gamer to the controls in no time. In the main game mode, Underground, you get a “toxin” meter. How this works is that it’s a microid that’s implanted in your body that pumps poisonous toxin in as you give a sloppy performance. If you pull off specials, and massive combos, the meter will halt and maybe even lower. This provides a great challenge so you can pull off all the level goals in time. It’s a bit of a hassle that the meter builds up rather fast, but thankfully there are power ups scattered throughout the level that deplete the meter.
The main goals that the stages in Toxic Grind consist of are your average “Wall ride this, grind over that” and collecting letters to spell out “BLASS.” There are a few unique stages where you have to compete with other riders, or hunt down other villains you discover later on in the story. There are also lots of obstacles that you have to get by such as spiked floors, and demolition wrecking balls, among others. When you complete the levels, you unlock tracks and riders for you to use in other game modes, plus you get stat points to add on to your attributes.
Trying to get all the goals in one run is rather challenging because, once the run is over, it doesn’t save the goals you have already completed. So once you fail a level, you have to do all the goals all over again. It doesn’t help either that the in game controls are a bit on the sloppy side. Why does my rider only get a small jump on a half pipe when he takes it a fast speed, and vice versa?
There’s a few other ways to play single player other than Underground. There’s Arcade mode, which is basically a single run competition. You practice on any course you unlocked for several minutes, and you match your score up with the rest of the bikers. There’s also Pro Circuit, which is like Arcade, but consists of three two minute runs on three different tracks. Unlike Arcade mode, you receive stat points and other awards for how well you place.
I was surprised when I first saw the cut scenes for Underground mode. I was expecting the usual CG animated FMV’s. Instead, we get these odd animated panels that look like they came out of a comic book. This is a weird approach, but it works well with this game, and they have a solid presentation to them. There’s plenty of variation in the character models you run across in Toxic Grind. The main character Jason Hayes, looks how you assume him to be. His blue sweater and distinctive facial expressions couldn’t make him look any more innocent. The many tricks you perform in Toxic Grind look superb. Everything from the Superman to the Decade is animated to perfection.
The stages you ride in look just as authentic. Some of these futuristic-themed courses look like they came right out of a movie. There are a lot of razzle-dazzle lighting effects that show off these tracks, and you have to see them to believe it. One nitpick I have with the in-game graphics is the blood. Whenever you crash you leave a splat of blood like you do in the other BMX games. Seems fine at first, but if you actually take the second to look at it, that splat of blood actually looks like a pink pile of goo. I know that minor complaint sounds like nothing, but after seeing that same goo a hundred times or so, it starts to grow on you.
My other gripe with the graphics is a major one, and that is the shoddy collision detection. At points it seems fine, but all too often it just gets flat out horrible. If you’re obviously way off a rail to grind, but you still decide to give it a shot, you are still able to make it. This isn’t blind luck, this is blind developers! It also works the other way around against you, where if you want to perfect your combo by grinding one more rail right next to you, you’ll miss it and wipe out, even though the rail was right next to your bike! This bug happens only all too often, and it will eventually drive you nuts.
The sound effects found in Toxic Grind are among your standard fair that are in Mat Hoffman and Dave Mirra. All the grinds, wipe outs, and landings sound how we heard them before, and haven’t changed a bit. The background music has an awkward grunge feeling too it, but I kind of adapted to it after a while. That is probably because this is one of only a handful of tracks in the soundtrack from Toxic Grind. You’ll grow tired of this ridiculously short set of tunes fast, but at least Toxic Grind supports custom soundtracks.
If you ever get past the frustrating bugs and complete all stages in Toxic Grind, there are a few extras here to keep you stuck playing. A two-player mode is included so you can race against a pal in one of several modes. A four player mode would’ve been appreciated, and it’s a shame that most extreme sports games only stick with two players for multi player support. The arcade and pro circuit modes are nice alternatives to the main Underground mode. You’ll be destined to complete the Underground mode if you desire to unlock all the stages, bikes, and bikers in Toxic Grind.
Game play: 6.4
Replay Value: 5.2
In the end, Toxic Grind ends up as a BMX game with a fresh concept, that only achieves mixed results. I welcome the new story added on to the game play, and the Toxin Meter makes it more challenging to complete all the goals. However, the aforementioned awkward game mechanics and horrendous collision detection keep on getting in the way. If you can get past these flaws, you’ll find yourself a fun BMX title. However, if you want to try one of the other fantasy based BMX games, you might want to check out BMX XXX instead. That is of course, if you’re old enough.
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