While I’ve never really spent a whole lot of time with them myself, ATV racing games having certainly gained an audience over the years. Titles such as the ATV Offroad Fury series as well as games like Pure have proven that there is a market for them and ATV Fever has arrived to attempt to join their ranks. Is it a worthwhile addition to the genre, or does this fever need a cure?
There is a myriad of modes presented in the game, though they all play pretty much the same. First of all, you have your Championship mode which is where the unlocking of new modes and ATV’s will take place. You will be required to use a particular class of ATV (though it can be whatever color you choose) and must race against five other participants in a series of at least three races. Some of the later championships will have more. Depending on how you place, you will earn a number of points. Whoever has the most points at the end of all of the races will be the champion. Luckily, as long as you place in the top three you will unlock new ATV’s and tracks.
There is also an Arcade mode which breaks down into three smaller modes. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why the manual didn’t mention anything about them until it dawned on me: the only difference between them is what ATV’s you are allowed to use. That’s it. One would think a mode called Rocket would literally allow you to use rockets, but alas, it’s not quite that exciting. Instead, you will race against five participants as you had before, but you must clear a checkpoint within a certain amount of time in order to keep racing.
You also have a Free Play mode that allows you to pick whatever track and ATV you want as well as weather conditions and race a few laps around with five counterparts just like every other mode in this game. The game tricks you into thinking there is a variety of stuff to do, but there really isn’t. It’s all the same. The website even promises multiplayer, but I couldn’t find such an option buried in the menus nor in the manual. If I somehow missed it, then you can bet your average user will miss it too and I would think that would be a key feature that you’d want to promote.
Story/Modes Rating: Bad
This is one of the few areas where ATV Fever shines. It’s a pretty decent looking game, and there aren’t any performance issues that I could find. When you begin the game, you are asked to choose a look for your racer which, while the choices are limited, adds to that feeling of personalization that is highly coveted in racing games. The racers as well as the ATV’s themselves move rather fluidly and the tracks themselves look nice, if not a little repetitive. All in all, it’s an impressive feat for a budget DS game.
The only downside to this, as I alluded to above, is the lack of variety in everything. The only real difference between the racers and the ATV’s are the colors, and many of the different tracks share the same environments. So while what’s here looks good, there’s just not enough of it to justify high marks in this department.
Graphics Rating: Decent
There is no voice work at all, just the simple sounds of engines for the most part. Unfortunately, they don’t really sounds like engines at all. As I drove around the various tracks, I couldn’t help but feel like my vehicle was being powered by one loud, obnoxious burp. And trust me when I say that once you hear it, you can’t unhear it. The only other notable clip is the annoying airhorn that goes off every time you complete a lap. Believe me when I say that the only place an airhorn has in any sort of media is a Jackass-styled Youtube video where someone attempts to scare someone else out of their sleep or otherwise. It’s not something I want to hear in a video game and it’s up there on the list of sounds that make me cringe alongside nails across a chalkboard and Renee Zellweger’s voice.
There is a decent soundtrack that plays in the background of the various races, and it’s fairly serviceable. It’s also fairly limited, so you’ll be hearing the same, low rock soundtrack repeating over and over during your races, but what’s there accompanies the tense atmosphere of the races so it’s not likely to bother you too much.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
As simplistic as the rest of the game is, it’s nice that the controls are easy to learn. Your face buttons are delegated to acceleration and breaking and you use the d-pad to turn. You can also use the left trigger to boost temporarily if you so choose. The right trigger is reserved for power sliding around turns. It’s a pretty standard affair, but that’s really all there is to it. Each track is one big circle that you must lap around ahead of your opponents in order to finish first. Repeat ad nauseum.
The bulk of the action takes place on the upper screen while you have a couple of different options for the bottom. By default, it displays an overhead map of the track as well as the positions of all the racers on it. This is nice not only for keeping track of your opponents’ whereabouts, but also if you have any deadly turns coming up on you. If you tap on the touchscreen, it changes to your speedometer as well as your lap times and how much boost you have left. What’s annoying about this is that to switch between these two screens, it requires me to take my hand off of either my steering or my ability to accelerate. This really should have been mapped to another button, or somehow combined with the other screen. Most games can display all of this information at one time, so why does everything have to take up so much space?
One unique feature, if you can even call it that, is the ability to convert air time into more boost. Every time you go off a jump or spent a considerable amount of time in the air, the game will tell you how much distance you got after you land. This then translates into more boost for you to use at your leisure. While it does encourage you to hit all the jumps rather than simply making it from point A to point B ahead of everyone else, it lacks any sort of style. Racing would feel less bland if I at least had the ability to do some tricks or even kick some of the other racers. I understand that this isn’t Road Rash and perhaps I am in the minority, but give me something to do!
Control/Gameplay Rating: Mediocre
You can finish the championships and pretty much unlock everything within an hour or two. Beyond that, you’re looking at either trying to beat your previous times on each track or attempt to unlock some of the in-game achievements. Considering the DS doesn’t currently have its own achievement/trophy/reward system, it’s kinda neat that the developers took the time to implement one into this game. However, there aren’t very many of them and you will likely conquer those with minimal effort as well.
Replayability Rating: Bad
The computer A.I. is pretty braindead, and not that difficult to beat at all. I’m terrible at racing games and the only times where I didn’t claim first place victory is when I took a corner too fast and ran into the wall. The racers themselves don’t present any sort of challenge whatsoever and I was able to walk through each of the championships without any trouble at all. Even the achievements they give you aren’t very taxing, consisting mostly of getting first place in said championships and completing laps without colliding with the wall.
Balance Rating: Below Average
ATV games are a dime a dozen and there isn’t anything separating this game from the rest of the pack, even with its budget price. Heck, a quick Amazon search turned up about five other titles on the Nintendo DS featuring ATV’s and while I haven’t personally played them myself, it just seems like a genre that’s far too saturated at this point. If you’re a huge (and I mean huge) fan of ATV’s and their games, then perhaps this isn’t a big deal to you, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything that could be classified as a selling point over all those titles much less any other title on the DS.
Originality Rating: Awful
I’m going to give slight props for the addition of the mini achievement system that was put into place. In a way, it plays off of the obsessive compulsive gaming nature that comes out in all of us from time to time. However, had there been more to do with these achievements (or even more to do period) perhaps I could have been a little more generous in this department. If you like ATV racing games you may find yourself entertained for the couple of hours it will take you to clear all of the championships, but beyond that, there isn’t much here to keep you hooked.
Addictiveness Rating: Bad
As I mentioned above, there is a definite market for ATV racing games and as such, fans of those titles will likely express interest in this one. However, due to the shallow nature of the game, even those fans will be turned off almost immediately and the only people left will be unsuspecting parents/relatives looking for a cheap title to gift for a family member. I hate to lump a game that is actually quite functional in the same category as something like Ninjabread Man or Anubis II, but due to the unremarkable nature of ATV Fever, it’s condemned to a life of budget title hell.
Appeal Rating: Dreadful
This game is much cheaper than other new DS titles, releasing at the low price of $19.99. A budget price is a great selling point for any game, regardless of what kind it is. Unfortunately, the age old expression of you get what you pay for rings true here, making the $29.99 and up titles that much more appealing when you look at it from that perspective. Then there’s the simple fact that there are a number of old titles that can be acquired for less than that and are of much higher quality. Heck, even some of the other DS ATV games I mentioned earlier fall into that category if you would rather bank on those.
Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre
Balance: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Final Score: Poor Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
ATV Fever is a perfectly functional product that simply fails to impress at any level. The presentation is serviceable, but with a complete lack of anything to really do, the game feels more like a demo than a full retail release. ATV fanatics may get a kick out of it for an hour or two before they realize that they’ve seen about everything the game has to offer. With a few additional modes and perhaps a gimmick or two to separate itself from the pack, ATV Fever might have made for a pretty decent stocking stuffer. As it stands now though, it’s a lackluster title that can’t deliver enough thrills even for a budget game.