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'ExciteBots' equals excellence

June 11, 2009

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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How many Nintendo Wii launch titles can you remember off the top of your head? Wii Sports, obviously. Twilight Princess, surely. Red Steel, maybe.

Now, how many people think of Excite Truck right off the bat? Probably not a lot, and that's a shame considering what a fantastic game it was.

ExciteBotsFor those who may have missed that gem, fret not. 'ExciteBots: Trick Racing', the spiritual successor to Excite Truck, has been released for the Wii, and is developed by Monster Games, the developer of the original.

If you've played Excite Truck, you'll be right at home with ExciteBots. The controls are almost identical - that is to say, dead simple. To control your bot, you hold the Wii Remote on its side and simply tilt left or right. The '2' button accelerates, and the '1' button brakes and reverses (won't be needing much of that, mind you). Boosting can be done by pressing any direction on the d-pad or pressing the B-button.

ExciteBots gets something Excite Truck never had at the Wii's launch, and that's the Wii Wheel. It may just seem like a hunk of plastic, but the Wii Wheel actually enhances the experience and makes for a more natural feeling when you're steering.

For the uninitiated, this racing game isn't just about placing as high on the podium as possible. Far from it. You have to pull off stunts while racing to earn stars. At the end of each race, the winner isn't decided by who earns the checkered flag; it's decided by who has the most stars.

And this is what makes the game so damn fun. Almost everything you do will earn you stars, though of course by practicing, you'll figure out ways to make a lot more than you first thought possible. You can get stars by drifting, doing flips in midair, attacking other racers, pulling off great landings (hey, this game is etched in 'ExciteBike' lore, after all!), getting into violent crashes ... and that's just the beginning.

Believe it or not, you can also earn stars by hitting soccer balls into a giant net on the course, hitting the bullseye on a dartboard using an oversized dart attached to your bot, flying through hoops far above the ground, boosting off ever-changing terrain ... believe us when we say this game is a far cry from Mario Kart.

ExciteBotsAnd though this all probably sounds like a complete mess, impossible to master and get used to, it's quite the opposite. Most bots control fairly well, and despite reaching some insane speeds and having plenty to look out for, it's easy to stay on course and do all the stunts you want to do.

There are a ton of game modes to keep gamers busy here. The main mode takes you through several Cups, split up into a number of levels, from China, to Egypt, to the Great White North itself. Earn a high enough grade on each level of a Cup, and you can unlock a new one.

There is also a Poker mode that has no business being as addictive as it is. You play through courses, picking up cards on the track, trying to amass the best hands possible. It may sound ridiculous reading about it, but try it out and you'll be in for a surprise.

Several minigames are also available, allowing you to attempt single challenges like scoring as many points as you can on a dartboard, or making the most points possible by knocking down sets of bowling pins.

It's worth noting that there are also a slew of unlockables to keep players busy. Every star you earn while playing in races gets added to your career total. These stars can then be cashed in to open new bots, colours, trophies, decals, and a lot more. The only downside to this is that it will cost you a pretty penny to get even the most insignificant unlockable. You really have to be dedicated to earning stars if you want to open up a lot of stuff.

ExciteBotsThe other feature this game has that Excite Truck sorely needed is online play. You can link up with up to five random players for Excite or Poker races, or you can play against players on your friends list. As with every online Nintendo game, the silly friend codes are included here, making it difficult to accumulate any type of significant number of friends to ask online.

The neat thing about the WiFi races is that you bet stars before each race. If you look at your oppenents' stats (you can view races won, current stars, and total career stars), it's possible to get an idea how strong they are. If you're feeling confident, you can bet thousands of stars, and have those multiply if you win. It's obvious that the developers wanted this to play a big part in how you earn stars.

Another neat online feature is the ability to send race replays and challenges to friends, and attach stars to them. If you send a replay, your friend need only view it to earn the stars attached to it. If a challenge is sent, he or she has to beat your challenge to earn the stars attached to it. A very interesting way of getting players to participate in the online component of ExciteBots.

The entire experience is a big improvement on the already enjoyable Excite Truck. The gameplay is solid, the tracks and bots are fun, the extras are too numerous to mention here, and the online is one of the best on Wii so far (which, we admit, isn't necessarily saying a whole lot).

Whether or not you owned Excite Truck, this is worth picking up if you're looking for a racing game on the Wii.

 

ExciteBots Trick Racing
Format: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monster Games
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://www.excitebots.com

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.