Review: Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX (~18 hours, Dreamcast version)

Without a doubt, Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX is a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-clone, albeit with BMX bikes instead of skateboards. It’s actually a pretty competent clone but a clone nonetheless. I knew someone who played this game for months on end which should be a testament to its quality. If nothing else, Dave Mirra is proof that there really was something going on with “extreme sports” in the late ’90s and early aughts. In my research of this game, I found out the sad news that Dave Mirra died in 2016 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, in other words suicide. May he rest in peace.

With Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX, there are no things that float, like the floating letters that spell “Skate” in Tony Hawk or the floating tapes found in the same game. Your challenges are more basic, like “Grind the four forklifts,” or “break through the four warehouse windows.” Things seem to occur in fours in Dave Mirra, while in Tony Hawk, they occur in fives. I think my favorite challenge is “grind more than 180 feet on the power lines.” They are all metal power lines, not copper wire or anything. It’s just a fun challenge.

When you’re not doing the challenges, you are being judged in competitions, which is pretty much ripped straight out of the Tony Hawk series. And the advice to win is the same: find a bowl or a half-pipe, and combine tricks and spins until the time is up. Placing first isn’t hard. You definitely feel the heft of the bicycle in this game, and tricks don’t look as impressive as a result. Still, as you progress through the game, you unlock better bicycles, which are faster, and get more air, and all that good stuff. I only ever played as Dave Mirra. You can unlock new outfits, but aside from aesthetics, they don’t benefit you. Credit to Dave Mirra for insisting riders have helmets, knee pads and elbow pads.

I still can’t help but compare this game to Tony Hawk. This too has a rocking soundtrack, but it’s less memorable. Getting a Sublime song was a big win, with “Lovin’ is What I Got,” but the rest of the music is just decent, not exceptional. Graphically the game looks messy, and again, it’s early 3D, and runs on Dreamcast better than anything else. The person I know who got addicted played on Dreamcast, for what it’s worth. Ironically, Dreamcast had a terrible D-Pad, and this was an era where third-party controllers were also terrible (and maybe it’s still that era).

It is a good time if you’ve never played it. It looks like there’s a Windows version, so if you have something cool like a GPD Win, you could play it on a bus ride or train ride. For all I know, you can emulate it on a Raspberry Pi. Just be warned, it’s not a lot of new territory. Tony Hawk did it better and first. With all sincerity, I wish all the best for Dave Mirra’s family. There is a sequel to Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX, which I’d love to try.

3/5

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