Ducati Challenge Review—Get on Your Bikes and Ride!

DucatiTitle

Motorcycle racing is one of those genres that hasn’t been covered by a Mini, but this game, Ducati Challenge, by Italian developer Dtales, fills that void extremely well. It was originally an iPhone game, and while you can tell its roots in a few places (like the user interface), it’s apparently a recent iPhone game. So it looks very good, almost like a regular PSP game.

What makes or breaks a racing game is how the vehicles handle. This is especially true for the motorcycle games I’ve played, as controlling a motorcycle is more complicated than just steering a car, and often the result is a game that is very tricky to play. Here, though, they seem to have aimed for a somewhat realistic but very forgiving driving model, combined with adjustable controls letting you choose what assists you want to use.

Vroom! Pics are apparently the iPhone version.

Vroom! Pics are apparently the iPhone version.

Thankfully, the opponent A.I. is also fairly bright. At least, they generally don’t run into you. It happens sometimes, but most of the time contact with them will be your fault. There are three settings for race difficulty. I can’t tell if it features the dreaded “rubberband” style of A.I., where basically the opponents are attached to you on invisible elastic strings, but if it does, it’s not obnoxious. If you crash, you can generally catch up, but you generally won’t be passed unless you screw up.

As racing games go, its progression is not particularly original, but it is well done. There are two basic modes, Championship and Quick Race. At first, only one track and one bike are unlocked for Quick Race, with additional ones (there are six tracks and six motorcycles) unlocked by playing Championship Mode.

Championship Mode is where you participate in a series of races, earning points based on how you finish. At the end of the series, the racer with the most points is the winner. When you win a championship, you unlock the next championship. The first championship is only four tracks, the second five, and the last is all six, plus all six reversed.

You slide when you brake real hard....

You slide when you brake real hard....

What’s also very nice is that the first championship unlocks three tracks, then immediately when you do the second championship, the first track you race on is the fifth track, which unlocks when you win it. The same goes for the third championship; the first race in that is on the sixth and final track. So, unlocking tracks is very easy, though you need to unlock the reverse of the tracks separately.

The tracks have a wide range of variety. A couple are traditional racetracks, but the rest are road courses, one set in England, another in the American Southwest, different types of cities, and one set in the mountains. All look and race completely differently. Track variety is probably the most important thing in a racing game, and Ducati Challenge really does well here.

On the other hand, though, six bikes isn’t that much. Granted, this is Ducati Challenge, and that represents almost all of their current models, but including older models would have been nice. One of my guilty gaming pleasures was the various Ford Racing games (sadly now defunct), and they typically included 20 or 30 models, most from the past. Ducati is a very old company, so a nod to its past would have been nice, especially since Ducati fans will probably be the main audience for this game.

Besides unlocking the various tracks and bikes, you can also unlock pictures of the bikes, and there are about two dozen achievements. Most of the latter involve winning races, but some are for doing things while racing, such as a wheelie or even just crashing a lot.

You can do wheelies.

You can do wheelies.

Graphically, it looks really good. Most iPhone games and Minis that feature 3D graphics look more like a PlayStation 1 game than PSP. This almost looks like a PSP game. While certainly a far cry from Gran Turismo for the PSP, it doesn’t look much worse than the average racer. The catch, though, is that the frame rate isn’t always the best.

There is actually an option to set the level of graphics, to low, medium, or high. On low, the frame rate is about 30 fps, but on high, it seems to be only about 20. Still very playable, but a little choppy (this is one of those times where I wish I had a PS3 to see how it plays on it, as apparently sometimes Minis, especially those with 3D graphics, run more smoothly on it).

Unfortunately, one of the tracks (the city track) seems to have a glitch where the frame rate will really chug, going from frames per second to seconds per frame. It only happens when you are racing, not qualifying, and it doesn’t matter what graphics setting you have it on. So it’s clearly a bug. While it doesn’t make it unplayable, it is a little annoying to have the race slow down to a crawl, especially when you are right in the middle of a turn or weaving around an opponent. It’s caused me to crash more than once, and it can happen three or four times in a given lap.

I don’t think it’s possible for a video game to truly replicate the sound of a motorcycle (and this is probably a good thing, considering what a racket they make). But, the engine sounds are serviceable. There is also some generic rock music played while you race, but you have to listen very hard to hear it over the engine sounds.

City track. This is the one with some slowdown.

City track. This is the one with some slowdown.

Ducati Challenge provides a solid, entertaining racing game. It’s hurt somewhat by technical difficulties (the slowdown glitch, slow loading time for a race—about 20 seconds from menu to race) and slight sluggishness to the UI, but even with that, I had a lot of fun with it. While the three championships will only take about four or five hours to finish in total, there are several difficulties and steering options, so there is some replay value.

8/10

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Comments

4 Responses to “Ducati Challenge Review—Get on Your Bikes and Ride!”
  1. Ofaliss says:

    I hope this finds its way to NA sometime soon. It’ll be a day one buy for me.

  2. ChaosRandom says:

    Dang, this looks really cool.

  3. Den says:

    I got this game, and for me is simply the best racing game in the Minis , you even forget that it is a mini.

    Of course, the PSP has better motorcycle games, like SBK 09 and ATV Offroad Fury Pro, but none of them are street racing like that. Remember even a little Road Rash (but without the fights and weapons of course).

    8.5 / 10

    PS: and i love the full motion video Intro

  4. mayhem13 says:

    A really nice looking minis game but beyond that, I love that its not rediculously difficult like so many modern day racing games, especially motorcycle based games.

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