Nintendo’s Excitebots: Trick Racing carries forth the legacy created by its classic NES predecessor Excitebike and more recent Excite Truck where shifting gears, mileage, fuel and car part concerns were left at the curb. The newest racer to join Wii’s growing family relies on gravity-defying midair maneuvers, ludicrous power-ups and mini-games to deliver simplistic speed thrills ages 5 to 90 will find equal pleasure in mastering, especially when coupled with the optional Wii Wheel peripheral.
Excitebots puts you behind the controls of a rainbow colored animal or insect-themed racer by no means an ordinary mode of transportation. Each racer can sprout legs and walk as evidenced when they comically approach the starting line. Picking up a wrench along the course will activate the legs for you to control your racer hilariously running alongside its rolling adversaries.
Other collected abilities are conceived by someone whose thought processes hail from miles outside the proverbial box. Rather than rely solely on traditional arcade racing tricks such as shooting your opponent or speed-bursting past them, Excitebots will throw out bowling pins to knock over, a goal to kick a ball through or tossing a dart at a bulls-eye target. While there is speed-bursting which is far too easy to take advantage of, the special moves via mini-games are a big part of what makes Excitebots feel fresh.
Fun in Excitebots is measured by not only what you accomplish while on the ground but above it, too. When in midair, a racer can be steered over and around tall objects to inch forward on an opponent. Horizontal bars can be swung around at increasing speeds using the Wii Controller’s motion controls to launch a racer high into the air. Challenges will also present themselves above the ground such as steering through rings, and airtime plays a big role towards accumulating a maximum score.
Excitebots calculates the score in stars based on where you finish in the pack and the moves you pull off while racing. Soar on a huge jump and you will rake in extra stars. Knock down all the pins and watch more stars roll in. Every one of those stars is important as they determine whether the next track will open and unlock alternative game modes.
“Fun” modes such as the Poker Race in which playing cards are accumulated while racing to build a hand justify moving swiftly through the main campaign. Doing so is accessible to racers of all skill sets with generous AI and the ability to proceed without finishing first. Also available is the ability to race against up to five friends online, share “ghosts” online and even bet stars on other live racers while a spectator to accelerate building star assets – all via WiiConnect24. The only thing missing is WiiSpeak and music management capabilities.
Even without the addictive extra gimmicky modes, Excitebots: Trick Racing is a straightforward fun racer suitable for the whole family to kick back and enjoy. It will not win any awards for looks, but with lots of goodies to unlock including courses, modes and racers, and online play that offers interaction beyond steering, Excitebots is the robust racing package Mario Kart Wii should have been.
– Dan Bradley