MSA Julie features a novel combination of two-stick-shooter and motorbike racing game. While helping the French agent Julie Cevoir on her hunt for super villain Dr. Kreutzer you have to master bike physics while clearing the way off enemies. In twenty increasingly challenging missions preceded by an extensive tutorial the story is told in professionally recorded dialogs and comic stills.
I love Julie Cevoir's accent. I'm a sucker for a French accent. She may not star in the best written game, an understatement, but she's a fun character and the one which drives Mattini Games' Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie. Julie is pulled out of retirement to investigate the whereabouts of Ed Grimley or something. It's of little importance, because the hackneyed story or even Julie's cute voice is not the reason to give her game a spin. It's because flipping around shooting everything on a motorcycle is fun. I mean, how can that not be fun?
At it's heart, Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie is a mostly light hearted and predictable summer action blockbuster made digital via a 2-D side scrolling shooter. It's pretty neat to see a new game adopt this design; all shooters we get now are of the flying ship or girl variety. It's great to be bound by gravity; though not playing remotely like Moon Patrol, it's a style of shooter which is in surprisingly short supply and a niche Julie fills nicely. Over the course of 20 levels, players will be boosting and spinning over and through hostile forces, reigning explosive death wherever she goes. While it takes the game a while to pick up steam, a bit too long actually, the simple charm and tight twinstick control make up for any lulls brought about by the lack of variety in environments and challenges.
Mines and tanks are Julie's primary foes, seen all throughout the game trying to slow her down, and before long airplanes, missile turrets, and more wage war against her and the little bike that could. The bike is pretty limited in its movement: accelerate, decelerate, and boost (which recharges at a steady rate). Once players get the hang of boosting, they'll have Julie's motorcycle flying through the air with ease. It's not uncommon to leap off a ramp, boost for height to strike down a bomber, take out some mines during the fall, and then boost again to bypass the approaching tank to work on destroying that one up ahead. It's an exciting game which tasks players to make sense of the chaos on screen, and the simple, natural control scheme is a big part of what makes Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie work so well.
I'm glad the game's developer, Matthias Platho, released a game as well playing and enjoyable as Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie, but I do wish he spent more time on the presentation. Despite the 2-D gameplay and simple display, the visuals are 3-D, at least composed from polygons, giving thte game an odd, incomplete look. It's most jarring during a mission which has Julie blowing up warehouses; the warehouses crafted with depth that the board flat terrain can't accomodate, and the rear of these buildings just kind of dangle in air due to the 3-D perspective given to them. The game desparately needs better detail on the ground, too. Despite all of her acrobatics, Julie does spend much of the game racing along the ground, and the utter lack of detail and variety do hurt. Given how hectic the game can be and its love affair with mines, I suppose it's better from a gameplay perspective to avoid clutter, but it still leads to a boring looking environment when the player isn't sailing through exploding vehicles bent on taking her out. The way the dialogue in the comic book style cinemas tends to crawl out of the box point to a more sloppy or rushed effort than the game deserves. The nicely rendered cinema stills, fully voiced dialogue, and fun soundtrack anchored by "Crab (He Came in Peace)" by My Woshin Mashin help elevate the game's presentation and show Platho is capable of putting together a fairly professional looking product; wishing this attention to detail extended to the levels themselves is a feeling difficult to avoid while playing an otherwise solid game.
Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie owes its name to the fun gameplay powered by the Farseer Physics Engine. It's a great playing game which promises excitement and delivers. That areas it falters, namely visual inconsistency and redundant levels, aren't game killers, but they do hold the game back from being the gem it could be. Consider Julie an engagement ring, full of excitement, promise, and a hint of what may be waiting for us in the future should Platho ever decide to revisit the game and pull his heroine out of retirement again, with the hopeful improvements and issues addressed, of course.