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Mad Skills Motocross 2 (iOS|Android) is the long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite mobile racing games ever, bringing more challenging 2D motocross racing. But this time, you don't have to spend a cent; Mad Skills Motocross 2 is a freemium game, and the in-app purchase model stays out of your way as long as you have "mad skills."
Not for the casual gamer, this racing game is all about precision and going for the perfect run, so if you have the patience, you can beat the game without using any in-app purchases. With that said, those who need an advantage can get it if they want to spend a little extra cash.
Start your engines
The control system for Mad Skills Motocross gives you buttons for brakes and gas on the left and the ability to lean forward or back on the right. The way you tilt your rider is extremely important in this game because it is often in your landings and how you race through difficult sections that mean the difference between winning and losing.
One of the early secrets you learn is that leaning back makes you a bit faster, while riding on your rear wheel is faster still. The only problem is if you lean too far, you'll land on your back and crash. Fortunately, the early tracks are a bit easier, so you get a little leeway against early opponents which gives you some time to learn how to handle your bike.
The challenges (and purchase opportunities) come quickly
Though the early races are manageable even with a few mistakes, it doesn't take long before you'll need to get almost perfect runs in order to beat your opponents. You can either gut it out and play through the races or pay to upgrade.
The tracks are separated into three difficulty levels from novice to expert. You'll need to complete almost all of the races from the novice level in order to open the intermediate tracks, and then finish most of the intermediate tracks to open the expert level. But the problem is even the novice tracks can be very difficult, and your opponents improve their bikes as you attain higher levels, so you'll need to unlock new bikes just to keep up.
Freeium done right
Here's where the freemium model comes in, but it's not too bad. You unlock new bikes by winning a number of races. As an example, in order to unlock the third dirtbike, you need to complete at least 18 races. This puts you a few races into the intermediate category so you'll be racing and re-racing tracks for the perfect run just to win the race on your subpar bike. On the other hand, you could purchase the next upgrade ahead of time for $1.99 and have an edge that will make completing tracks easier or you can buy rockets that give you a brief burst of speed while racing.
This is a freemium model I like because upgrading -- though it gives you an edge -- is not required and there is still a path to spending zero money as long as you're willing to put in the work.
There are also customization options behind the paywall. You get a few standard colors for free you can use for your bike and rider, but you can buy the "Pro Color pack" for 99 cents. You also can add a number to your bike for another 99 cents. While it may seem pricey for such simple customizations, I think it's great the developers are focusing on the serious players who are really into the game and don't punish everyone with time limits or other barriers that keep you from playing.
Race against friends and the world
Mad Skills Motocross 2 adds more ways to play than the original with the addition of asynchronous multiplayer in Multiplayer Jam mode. While you won't race other people in real time, you'll go head-to-head with other players' "ghosts" to see who is the best racer.
Each week new tracks will be featured (for seven days) and you'll have to battle your way through the ranks by beating other people on the available tracks. At the end of the week, you'll be able to see who was the best for that week, and you can see where you rank among the best in the world.
If you want to race your friends, you also can connect the game with either Twitter or Facebook to battle it out to see who gets the best time.
Upgrades are too vague
One problem I have with this game is that you can't really tell what the advantages are for upgrading your bike. While you'll know you're upgrading from Bike 2 to Bike 3, there is no measure for how much better that bike will be. What the game needs are stat bars (or something along those lines) that show you how the next upgrade will really improve your racing. Is it handling? Speed? It's important to know especially because it's one of the options you can pay for, so it ought to be clear what you're getting for your money. It would also be nice to know even when you have no intention of paying because you could see the rewards before you put in all the work.
Finally, my only other issue with this game was that the developers chose to take out the special moves from the first game. The jump and boost buttons from the first game are nowhere to be found, probably because the developers thought it better to appeal to racing purists. I can appreciate that, but those added boosts added another layer to the game that I think people will miss.
Whether you pay to upgrade or not, Mad Skills Motocross 2 is an excellent 2D racer that lives up to the original while adding more stuff to do. Even better, the developers promise to continue updating with more tracks and content every week (a promise they lived up to in the original), so you can count on plenty of replay value.