If you looking for a arcade cartoon racer for the Wii, which might include some enjoyement from the seldom-used Wii Wheel, check out this X-Play review of Excitebots: Trick Racing, the next in the 'Excitebike' series, and find out whether or not it will make your heart race, or just stall out in the parking lot.
- Easy pick up and play mechanics
- Fun assortment of mini-games
- Online Multiplayer
- Not a lot of track variation
- Damn Red Bar
On the racing spectrum of games, Nintendo plants their flag firmly on the arcade side of things while leaving the sim-style of racing to the other consoles. The influence of Mario Kart is hard to argue when so many others try to copy it’s easy to pick up and play style along with a wide appeal. Never satisfied cornering the market on this kart racing games, Nintendo tries to push the genre once again by creating a racing game that has perhaps veered off the racing spectrum all together.
Excitebots: Trick Racing practically fills every muddy path with tricks and treats while leaving gear heads behind in the dust.
More than Meets the Eye
Comparing Excitebots to another kart racing game such as the one with the Italian plumber brothers will only lead you down a dead end. This sequel to the Wii launch title, Excite Truck, tries to move away from anything that may confuse it with one of those racing titles. Sure, you have a track where things with wheels make consecutive laps around it to get to a checkered flag but the similarities quickly end there. The things on wheels aren’t cars but bots, taking the form of insects or other creature not normally found with wheels. And taking that checkered flag doesn’t always mean that you’re going home with the gold. Just with the previous game, the winner of the competition is judged on the number of stars they’ve earned throughout the race – style over speed.
It’s this focus on star collecting that really separates the game from your typical racer, even the arcade type. Everything becomes a just another couple of stars to collect. Hit a high jump, that’s a couple of stars. Crash into someone else, that’s worth at least two or three stars. Crash against a rock and the game will throw a star at you just to make you feel better. Even coming in first is worth a couple of stars. By doing this, the game is less about driving skill than being able to complete more tasks in less time. Think of Excitebot as Wario Ware on wheels.
Player Versus Environment
Races typically last less than five minutes and take only two laps around the track. Even if you are familiar with the track, there are often more than two paths to take, so picking the one that yields the highest star amount is just part of the strategy. Fans of Excite Truck will be pleased to know that nearly everything has been thrown into the next gear. The question mark blocks appear in swarms and rarely give you a moments rest. As before, these blocks can change the very landscape of the track from a flat field to a sky high ramp that can hurdle you into stars, bars to spin on, or parts of the track not accessible from below. In addition, there are sports such as bowling, soccer, darts, and even pie throwing that can appear out of nowhere. A wrench item can transform your bot into a walker where you’ll need to make a walking motion with your Wii mote to trample the competition.
As mentioned before, you’ll cruise around the track in metal insects instead of something more familiar. Each has their own stats such as weight, grip, the effectiveness of your boost, and how long you can floor it before burning. None of the bots feel radically different than the next, but you’ll generally find one that feels right for you and stick to it. More bots become unlocked with enough accumulated star points through races or mini-games. While they all have a different look, you can only switch around weight and grip so many times. The higher level cars generally have better boost that last longer, but even in a game where making a sandwich can score you a pocket full of points, boost is more about getting around the track and less about crossing the finish line first.
The Red Bar of Death
Even with all the added additions, not all of them are stellar choices. There’s one mini-game that demonstrates this more than any of them, the Red Bar. During the race, you’ll run into, you guessed it, a red bar hovering over the track. There’s no way around it. Even your bot throws up a mechanical hand in defeat as it grabs hold of the bar. Whatever momentum you had going into it instantly dies as you have to follow the image of the swinging mote on the screen. Like some rusted crank, you spin your car off the bar. There’s no graceful way to do this and you have to do it for just about all the tracks. For other gamers it may be picking up the tambourine or trying to hit that fastball. You’ll find a couple of tasks to dislike and you’ll probably have to do them several times throughout the game.
Even though there are a good number of tracks and even a harder difficulty to master, the game quickly wears on you. Scenic environments only take you so far when you’re racing through the same familiar forest/desert/tundra you just beat three or four tracks back. Moderately skilled racers will probably beat the main racing circuits in a weekend. But it’s the ability to go back and explore the best ways to maximize your star points that makes this game so addictive. You’ll need all the practice you can get if you want to play with the big boys online.
Gambling with the Stars
A most needed addition to there series comes in the form of online multiplayer. Besides being able to play people locally, you and up to five competitors can jockey for position while trying to knock down bowling pins and throw pies at clowns. My experience was lag free and I could even watch other people play while waiting my turn at the checkered flag. Before each race, you can throw down a couple of stars in case you think you can place in the top three (or less if you happen to have a small group). Here’s where you really rack up points quickly or lose them if you don’t watch it. The main problem came from finding a good group. If you’re in a pod that you don’t really like, you’ll need to completely exit out and hope for a different match. But overall, it’s a much needed addition to the Excite series.
If you can find a way to get past its cotton candy exterior, Excitebots offers a frantic and fun ride for even the most novice riders. This little racer is practically packed to the exhaust pipe with mini-games, items to collect, and even a poker puzzle game for players out there that still hunger for something different. Play for more than a couple of hours and you’ll find that the game quickly wears on you, however, with repetitive environments and mini-games. Put your pride aside and give the game a spin. Excitebots may just be that gateway game you’ve been looking for to get the whole family into gaming.
Article Written by: Rob Manuel