|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Monster Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-6||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The comic ridiculousness of Mario Kart, the speed of Burnout, and a few new twists? Anyone who hears that and thinks "sign me up" won't be at all disappointed with ExciteBots: Trick Racing. A sequel to the Wii launch title Excite Truck and a distant descendant of the NES classic Excitebike, it's an over-the-top, gimmick-packed gift to the ADHD generation: players pilot an assortment of metal bugs and small animals through obstacle-strewn tracks.
The racing itself is pretty simple, even mundane. Hold the Wii-mote on its side, with or without a Wii Wheel, and tilt it to steer. Use the 1 and 2 buttons to brake and accelerate. The B button and D-pad provide boost (which is unlimited, as it was in Excite Truck, the caveat being that you'll "overheat" if you boost for too long). That's it.
The reason the racing is so bare-bones, though, is that you'll hardly ever just be racing. The tracks are full of hills, and whenever your wheels leave the ground you can hit the boost button to jump higher and farther. Once in the air, you can hold brake and turbo at the same time, and then turn the wheel left and right to spin around. You'll run over boxes, which do everything from change the terrain ahead to give you mini-game tasks to complete while driving. You might have to hit a clown face with a pie, throw a dart at a board, catch a fish from the course's water, knock a soccer ball into a net (or football through goalposts), or even smack your opponents with a hammer.
Then there are bars. When you come to a horizontal red bar, your character starts spinning around it like a gymnast, and you have to move your Wii-mote back and forth in sync with the spinning. The more in sync you are, the faster you'll get off the bar, and if you get out of sync, it's hard to get back on track. The other bars in ExciteBots also make you spin around them, but can be horizontal or vertical. To get off them, all you have to do is push the Wii-mote forward, the catch being that if you time the release wrong, you'll crash.
These bizarre tasks are so important because, in ExciteBots, winning the game isn't just about winning the race. Rather, the key to winning the game is collecting stars. Winning the race helps (a first-place finish gets you 50 stars, for example), but completing the other tasks can make up for a bad finish. You can get away with a lot of crashing if you can nail all the turbo-jumping, spinning, and mini-games. Even drifting and smashing into other cars give you stars. At the end of each race you're awarded a grade, the highest of which is S, followed by, A, B, etc.
The single-player experience is well-put-together, though it's home to some frustrations. There are six different cups to work through: School, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Crystal. When you earn at least a B grade in each of the races in a cup, you unlock the next. From there, you can unlock a higher difficulty by earning S grades on all the tracks, and even then there's still a Mario Kart Wii-style Mirror mode left. Various new bots, colors, and useless bonus items (like statues) also unlock as you work your way through the game, though you have to buy them with the stars you've accumulated.
On early tracks, you can earn a B in just a couple tries, especially if you choose bots whose attributes (weight, cornering grip, turbo) match the course. However, we found many of the later tracks to be quite a bit more demanding, starting with the Gold cup. Getting even a B can take about an hour's worth of work (each race usually takes three to five minutes). So, prepare for a challenge, especially when you go back for S rankings, and then on to the higher difficulty.