If there’s any country that’s been getting a notable amount of Switch games not seen in other territories, it’s Japan. The latest of these is Bike Rider DX. As I did some research, I learned that the Switch version is actually a compilation of all the levels from the three games in the series. Bike Rider DX started life as a cell phone game in 2006. It since found homes on smartphones, 3DS, and Playstation Vita. I think these releases can even be found in territories outside Japan. Who knows? Maybe Bike Rider DX on Switch could follow suit someday.
What Bike Rider DX isn’t is a looker…at first, anyway. The graphics look like they were cobbled together with assets from three games that don’t relate to each other. I do dig the backgrounds art styles, but the tiles and sprites clash way too heavily with each other for the presentation to be deemed artistically appealing. There is also a good amount of level decorations and placements that make me wonder if they cared about visuals to begin with.
When the tracks from the sequels kick in, however, something changes about it. It can still look cheap depending on how you feel about it, but the tracks beyond the first selection have plenty more creative settings that are hard for me to pick on. There are some really charming backgrounds, and the tiles even begin to complement them at this point in the game.
From the get-go, the music is as energetic as songs from StepMania. I swear one of the tracks is deeply inspired by Durade’s Sandstorm. It’s that kind of electronic dance music that keeps players pumped during gameplay sessions. The sound effects are also well-pronounced, from the jumping noises to the satisfying coin clicks and victory jingles.
Bike Rider DX is an auto scrolling platformer where you try to survive incoming hazards and jumps as the camera wades to reveal the goal flag at the end of each level. Also noteworthy are the three coins per level, which you must collect to move on to the next world. Not all of them have to be collected and they are never hard to spot, but there are set amounts to strive for.
At first, the game seems too basic for its own good. You spend time hopping along basic level layouts hoping for a challenge. Then the controls step in to twist things up. You see, if you move forwards, the camera subtly slows down. If you move backwards, the camera noticeably speeds up. Controlling is responsive, but your muscle memory may become responsible for at least some of your deaths in Bike Rider DX. Every time I thought I could genuinely slow down to get reaction time to jump, I ended up rigging it so my jump was off. It’s enticing to speed up, yet so dangerous when you actually do it.
The game also likes to throw in some power-ups that could be used to your advantage. There’s stuff like super speed, drilling through rocks, flying, etc. By default you can even do multiple jumps in the air. How this is done is admittedly not as clear as it should be; sometimes I’d find myself failing to do a second mid-air jump despite pulling one off from the same maneuvering in a previous level. Fortunately, anyone can do a double jump with a simple button tap in the air, and that’s usually good enough to get across pits anyway.
I suppose all this leads to what I find most surprising about Bike Rider DX. There is a lot of content for the 598 yen price. It keeps slowly but surely introducing new things to play around with. Two of the games consists of fifty levels each, and the second game’s amount has sixty! That’s without considering the highscoring online mode, the unlockable cosmetics for your character, and that each level is way more than 10 seconds long.
As much as I could sing its praises, however, there are some irritating quirks that prevent it from being must-have material. One of the powers cripples your jumping abilities, for example, and some layout placements in general are rather questionable. Since your character can only get hit once, you know what that means: Inevitable bits of trial and error. There will always be a point where you die from something you cannot see coming until after you die from it.
Nevertheless, I’ve grown accustomed to Bike Rider DX for the qualities it does offer. It is kind of rough around the edges, but within those boundaries is a title that could be enjoyed in short or long sessions. If you’re willing to spend money on a Japanese Nintendo eShop card and create a Japanese Nintendo account, this one is a good pick-up.