Why on Earth did this game think it’d be cool to name itself “Bike Unchained“? I get it, it’s supposed to sound wild and exciting, but having your mountain bike come unchained while barreling down a rocky slope is surely one of the last things you want to happen. I assume. I’m not a mountain biker.
Now that we’ve established that the game is named after a biking disaster, is it a disaster itself?
Bike Unchained, made in partnership with Red Bull, lets players live the dream that I’m sure some of you have had: to run a world-famous mountain biking team and compete in various events around the world. As you compete, you unlock more bike parts as well as sign famous cyclists to be part of your team.
From a gameplay standpoint, it’s very well optimised for touchscreens. Pedalling is a simple process of tapping to accelerate and holding down a button to navigate corners. Each stage lasts slightly more than a minute and takes place on a fixed track constisting of straights, jumps and ramps. Aside from some trick-orientated levels, the game doesn’t allow for lane changing, which leaves players free to worry purely about their pedalling timing. However, the simplistic nature of the controls does mean that the gameplay quickly becomes repetitive.
Tricks themselves are unfortunately not as well implemented as the general cycling is. Performing tricks requires that players swipe and hold an on-screen joystick while in mid-air. The joystick is often unresponsive, and the most frequent trick you’ll be pulling off is a 360 Faceplant.
The impressive watercolour-style visuals look good on small screens, and the levels are great at lulling you into a fairly relaxed state of mind. It might sound odd that an extreme sports game can be relaxing, but this one generally is. The sound effects contribute nicely to this, leading to a pleasant presentation. A rather nice change in Bike Unchained is that players aren’t restricted by a stamina system or forced to wait to play new levels. Microtransactions are present in the form of randomised loot boxes, netting players new parts or cyclists, but so many boxes are freely given to players that it isn’t truly necessary.
The game finds ways to be a letdown between levels, most notably with its story. Just like Trials Frontier (which I reviewed a while back), this game does not need a story to be playable or fun. But it has one and it’s not good at all, yet it’s forced onto the screen far too often. The gist of it is that the player’s team is competing against the cartoonishly evil Team Praedor. Praedor has over-commercialised the sport of mountain biking, and I guess your team doesn’t like that? Maybe? It’s all a little poorly explained, and any game with Red Bull branding plastered all over it that sends out an anti-commercialisation message is going to come across a little hypocritical.