May 19, 2009

ExciteBots: Trick Racing - Wii

Excitebots: Trick Racing is a new title brought to us by the creators of the classic Nintendo game Excite Bike. Excite Bike was one of the first games I owned for my Nintendo and I remember spending countless hours creating my own stunt tracks to put my dirt bikes through. With Excitebots: Trick Racing being released for the Wii, those fond memories came to mind and created quite a bit of nostalgia me. As one might assume from the games name this title is all about racing your Excitebot to the finish line through a variety of racing venues while performing jumps, spins and a variety of other tricks.

Excitebots is a game that is very easy to pick up and play. There are two control options where you can use your Wii Remote horizontally, or use it in tandem with the Wii Wheel. However, the controls work exactly the same for both control options with the “2” button being the gas, the “1” button being the brakes and turning your Wii Remote/Wheel to the left or right to control your Bot. There are a few other manoeuvres to perform which you learn in the brief training mode which will have you racing in no time at all. The Wii Remote on its own was my preferred method of control, so the rest of the descriptions about controls will be from that perspective.

The object of all the racing modes is to collect a target amount of stars by completing mini games and stunts throughout the race. The stunts that your Bot can perform are: Air, Drift, Tree Run, Air Spin, Bot Throw, Jump Combo, Bot Smash, Nice Crash, Rings and Leg Smash. There are also some specific obstacles that you encounter throughout the races with the main obstacles being Red, Yellow, Flip and Elevator Bars.

Red Bars require you to rotate your Wii Remote in a circular motion, performing 10 revolutions before your Bot is launched forward. The more in sync you are with the on screen visual, the more stars you earn and the faster your launch will be. Yellow Bars don’t require much of an effort on your part as your Bot will automatically latch on and start to spin and when your Bot rotates to the bottom you have to thrust your Wii Remote forward to launch your Bot. The Flip Bar is another automatic latching bar where you move your Wii Remote in a circular motion to perform flips, but be careful to finish your stunts before you run out of bar. The last bar is the Elevator Bar where you again latch on automatically, and when you reach the top you have to thrust your Wii Remote forward with the right timing to land your Bot. The bars are usually present when there is an area of the course you may need some added help in getting to. Some bars may be avoided whereas others are mandatory to get through to the next portion of the track.

Another feature your Bot will encounter is the Question Mark Triggers that are found along the tracks. These triggers may open up special items you can use against your opponents or they may trigger some Sport Tricks (field kick, soccer goal, bowling strike, dart throw & baseball hit) which help earn extra stars.

The game has several game modes to play through. Excite Race has the School Cup in which you learn and practice all the controls on an easier playing field. As you move along through the other cups (Bronze Cup, Silver Cup, Gold Cup) the Bots become a little more challenging to control and the race itself becomes more difficult to collect all the stars you need to complete the track. You must complete all the levels in a cup with a passing grade before the next cup is unlocked.

Poker Race is one of the extra racing game modes in which you race around the track forming poker hands in order to accumulate stars. The better the poker hand the more stars you earn. Four randomly selected cards will be allotted to you as you begin the race and as you move along the track you will be able to select from five cards displayed up ahead. Steer your Bot towards the card you wish to add to your hand, and if you wish to discard your card and replace it with another card you must select a card with the d-pad on your Wii Remote. Once you have the hand you want you press the A button to submit your hand and obtain a new set of four cards to build on. The only drawback to Poker Race is that you are limited to only three tracks and not the full compliment available in single player mode. This race is really challenging because you have to concentrate on making the best poker hands possible, as well as to compete with other Bots. If you are too slow, other bots might have already selected the card you were aiming for, ruining the perfect hand.

The Mini-Games mode of the game contains ten Mini-Games drawn from the special activities/tricks you perform during your races including sports tricks, glider flying, bar courses and so on. The Mini-Games act almost like a practice section helping you improve your skills and ultimately perform better during your races. You can even earn stars by completing the Mini-Games. These are a quick and fun alternative if you aren’t in the mood to compete in an actual race.

Excitebots has two multiplayer options available with versus and Nintendo WFC. In the local versus multiplayer mode you race to the finish, while trying to beat out your opponent in total stars earned. The tracks played in single player mode are the exact same tracks that you and your friends will compete for Excitebots supremacy. The other multiplayer option is Nintendo’s WFC (Wi-Fi Connection). Compete with up to five other players either from your friends list, or random players, in either Excite Race or Poker Race. One great thing added in WFC is the option to bet your stars against yourself which can allow you to increase your in-game currency. In addition to the race modes available in WFC play, you can also send replays or challenges to fellow gamers on your friends list. This is a great way of showing off your skills and challenging your friends to beat your best times and star counts.

The purpose of collecting all of these stars is to use them as currency to purchase new colors for your bots, special designs, icons, and statues. Icons are used to represent your profile in Excitebots and range from simple pictures like an axe, duck, football, ghost and smiley faces. Statues of all the Bots available in the game can be purchased for your viewing pleasure as well, but you have to complete ten races with that specific Bot before you can even have that option. The last unlockable feature is special dioramas, but unlocking these dioramas requires quite a bit of skill on your part. To unlock the dioramas you have to complete Super Stunts, and quite a few of them from as low as 20 and upwards to 250.

The gameplay is pretty intense and will definitely keep you racing for quite a while with the large amount of unlockables, and various gameplay modes. Poker Race was an unexpected feature that is a lot fun to play, but with only three tracks available made it a bit boring after a few dozen races or so. Regardless, after everything has been taken into consideration the gameplay is great.

I was impressed with the quality of the graphics in this game and the overall design of the actual Excitebot’s and the individual levels. The Bots were creatively designed in the form of several different animals and insects including a Frog, Beetle, Ladybug, Bat, Turtle, Grasshopper, Mantis, Mouse, Hummingbird, and Centipede. The Bots themselves closely resemble and react like their real live counterparts. Each Bot comes with a few standard colors you can choose from with the majority of the other colors being available to purchase with the stars you accumulate in the different modes and races. As you progress through the game you will unlock more Excitebots along the way along with some special designs for each Bot and even some special armour.

During a race your Bot will interact with the environments with great attention to detail of various body reactions on the different terrains. Little things like smoke coming off your Bot if you overheat, flames exploding out of the back of your Bot when you initiate your turbo, and fragments of your Bot flying apart when you wipe out. A few other things I noticed was the glide trail when you skip over water and the spinning air currents that your crazy mid-air spins create.

The race locations are loosely based on the stereotypical idea of a certain countries terrain. For example, Fiji is a lush tropical paradise alongside the ocean whereas Finland is a snowy wonderland. All the locations are beautifully designed and each track has their own unique features and designs. I especially appreciated the detail in the off-road portions of the tracks. Though there is a barrier which ultimately limits where you can go, you do have some flexibility on how you can reach the finish line. The development team made sure to include unique terrain in these areas such as tree lines and cliffs and this made the whole environment seem bigger and more accessible.

The soundtrack for the game was the most disappointing feature for me personally. If I had to categorize the music I would say it was a mixture of annoying techno/rave music for in-game action and elevator music when browsing the game’s menus. I just didn't enjoy the in-game tunes and they didn't really add anything for me.

The sound effects on the other hand, were well done and include typical engine revving, crash sounds and quite the variety of beeps, whirrs, whistles, buzzes, and bells. All of these extra sounds are associated with collecting items (such as special items) and or completing different feats like landing a jump, recovering from a crash or spinning around a bar to name a few.

While playing through the game you may not realize that the sound effects are not only coming from your television or stereo system but also coming directly from your Wii Remote. These sounds were mixed together seamlessly so that you may only notice if you mute your television, or have the volume quite low.

Excitebots: Trick Racing is a fun and exciting racing game that provides quite an enjoyable experience with some added mini games and crazy stunts thrown into the mix. The only major flaw I found in Excitebots was the poor music selection and some lack of variety in the Poker Race. Overall the Excitebots is a great racing game for gamers of all ages and is a worthy addition to anyone’s Nintendo Wii library of games.

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