The game's impressive visual presentation is complimented by its accessible handling model and rich variety of content.
The PlayStation Minis platform has played host to some fantastic two-dimensional games, but it's been less successful with more ambitious polygonal efforts. Smaller development times and shrinking budgets mean polygonal games released through the Minis platform don't always get the care, polish and attention they deserve, leaving them feeling sub-standard when compared to more high-profile releases.
But Ducati Challenge is a pleasant surprise in almost all regards. Born out of a recent iOS release, this PlayStation Mini is comparable to a full-budget PSP title, boasting outstanding visuals, reasonable handling and a good variety of content. Ducati Challenge is no Tourist Trophy successor, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
Ultimately, it's the handling that makes Ducati Challenge such a joy to play. DTales has crafted a system that's both partially realistic, yet still easily accessible. A range of assists make the game perfectly digestible for newcomers, but purists will appreciate the option to turn them off and get a more challenging experience. Either way, Ducati Challenge caters well to both ends of the player spectrum.
Opponent AI is also competent, especially on the harder difficulties. While there are only ever six other bikes on the track at the same time, those opponents will push you, looking for opportunities to overtake on tight corners — especially if your driving is sloppy.
But the mechanics themselves would be meaningless if they weren't implemented into an attractive campaign. Thankfully, Ducati Challenge boasts a thorough and lengthy (if somewhat unambitious) single-player component that spans the game's three difficulty tiers and complete roster of tracks. Here you'll spend your time participating in three different tournaments (Easy, Normal and Hard), qualifying for races and competing for points in an overarching leaderboard. It's all rather simplistic, but it works, and the addition of an in-game achievement system makes playing through the tournaments worthwhile. As you unlock achievements, you'll also open up various tracks in the 'Quick Race' mode, as well as new playable motorbikes and artwork.
The tracks themselves are surprisingly packed with variety too. One takes you through a South American valley, while another is set in a picturesque mountainous environment. The tracks are long and windy, keeping you on your toes as you frequently deal with hair-pin bends and long narrow corners. It's fun, and with each track boasting a 'reverse' option too, the amount of content is surprisingly rich for a game available so cheaply.
Visually Ducati Challenge is extremely impressive. The tracks themselves are packed with scenery, and the bike models are reasonable too. The game is especially impressive when in its first-person bumper-cam viewpoint, as the scenery soars by capturing a real sense of speed. Ducati Challenge's frame-rate rarely falters, though this can be impacted if you opt to change the visual settings to 'High'. We recommend sticking to the default visual settings and enjoying the enhanced frame-rate it provides.
Unfortunately while the visual presentation is stellar, the motorcycles sound flat and irritating. The bikes tend to buzz along, creating an unpleasant phasing effect when multiple vehicles are on screen at once. Similarly the game's soundtrack is not much better, packed with obvious generic rock songs to populate the backdrop. While the sound serves its purpose, it doesn't live up to Ducati Challenge's excellent visual presentation.
But it's a small complaint in what's otherwise a largely impressive game. Ducati Challenge looks and plays surprisingly well, and there's more than enough content packed into its sub-50MB file-size to keep you occupied for the entirety of a lazy weekend. If you're a fan of motorbikes, or just enjoy racing games in general, this is an attractive package that's well worth the game's reasonably low asking price.