System: WiiWare Exclusive
Developer: Monster Games
Way back in 1985 Nintendo released the original Excitebike on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The then-revolutionary dirt bike racer featured simple controls and addictive beat-the-clock arcade-style gameplay that grabbed hold of gamers and simply wouldn’t let go. The title was met with both critical and commercial success, and is to this very day one of the most beloved NES titles.
Monster Games, the developers for both critically acclaimed spiritual successors to Excitebike, Excitetruck and Excitebots, has taken the formula for what made the original such a smash hit and applied it to Excitebike: World Rally, the newest addition to the Excite lineup of games. Does the 24 year-old formula manage to hold up to today’s standards?
Before we get into anything else, I want to clear something up. World Rally is not a remake of the NES original. There are a lot of sites out there, like IGN.com, that are either confused on the matter or simply don’t know what they’re talking about. World Rally could be classified a re-imagining of sorts, but it is more of a sequel than anything else. Anyway, on to the review.
World Rally features essentially identical core play mechanics as the NES original hit, albeit with some welcome changes and enhancements. Players take control of a motocross dirt bike and are tasked with racing through various obstacle-filled courses in arcade time-trial fashion. To help get you from one of the track to the other as quickly as possible, players have access to a turbo function that throws the bikes into overdrive. You’ll have to use this feature strategically, though, as it causes your bike’s temperature to rise and will ultimately lead to overheating if used too often. Each level rewards you with a grade upon completion, S, A, B, C and D based on how quickly you manage to make it to the finish line, but a grade of B or higher is required to advance.
Of course it isn’t just a cakewalk getting to the end of the race, because then it wouldn’t be any fun. Strewn about each course are various obstacles ranging from mud holes, grass patches, walls, and an unlimited amount of other racers to slow you down. The game doesn’t shy away from obstructions, and thankfully it isn’t squeamish when it comes to ramps either. The jumps on each track range from minuscule to massive, and pulling off wheelie jumps and lining up your tires for a square landing are required skills for making sure you come out on top every time. Due to the standard isometric view of the game you aren’t going to get many thrills from the big jumps as can be found in Excitetruck, however.
You control your racer by holding the Wiimote classic-style and using the Up and Down buttons on the D-pad to switch between the four lane and you control your bike’s pitch by either using the Left and Right buttons or by tilting the Wiimote left/right, depending on which of the two initially available control schemes (Classic or Normal, respectively) you choose. It’s great to able to play the game the way you grew up or with tilt controllers, and the devs get kudos for allowing multiple control options.
World Rally’s visuals are pretty basic, but far from bland. The team managed to create engaging tracks with plenty of colors and absolutely gorgeous backgrounds while still holding on to a certain degree of retro feel. The tracks and riders themselves look just fine, if not a little basic, but the absolutely gorgeous backgrounds in locales such as Fiji and China more than make up for that.
The game’s soundtrack is composed of revamped re-imaginations of songs from the original as well as some original tunes. The music all works really, really well and accompanies the visual style and mood of the game excellently. On the other hand the sound effects in-game are mostly decent at best. I was, however, really impressed with the excellent use of the Wiimote’s speaker. Essentially any sound that might come out of your dirt bike other than its acceleration comes through the controller’s speaker, and the end result works really well.
Easily the biggest and most welcomed addition to the Excitebike formula is the inclusion of online multiplayer and level sharing through the Nintendo WiFi Connection. The interface is, as is expected from Nintendo, extremely basic and oversimplified of course, but there is still a lot of fun to be found, and I have yet to run into any form of lag whatsoever. Matches are played either against randomly chosen opponents or your friends. There is no way to interact with whomever your opponent may be, though.
Each race yields players with a certain amount of stars, 1-5, depending on how well they placed in the race. These stars are used to show your level of skill and dedication to your opponents and unlock different paint jobs for your bike, but sadly there are no online leaderboards to speak of.
One thing that really, really disappointed me with World Rally is that, while there is online multiplayer, offline local multiplayer was not included. Games in general have been skipping out on this feature as of late, but it isn’t something I expect from a Nintendo-published game. In fact, I expect local multiplayer with no online. And thanks to Nintendo’s restrictive online service, I almost would’ve preferred it that way this time around.
In terms of Entertainment Value, World Rally is easily worth the $10 admission fee. While the campaign mode can likely be cleared in a single sitting, striving for S ranks in all 16 courses will help add to the amount of time you’ll play this game by yourself. What really makes this title worth your money, though, is the online component. Add to that an addictive level editor and you’ve got something you can easily sink several hours into.
Excitebike: World Rally is an exceptionally entertaining WiiWare title that proves that the 24 year-old formula introduced by the original Excitebike is as fun and addictive as it was in 1985. The game isn’t without its flaws, of course, as the omission of online leaderboards and local multiplayer hurt the end product. All in all, however, the good easily outweighs the bad. I highly recommend Excitebike: World Rally to anyone with an online Wii.
- Fun, addictive gameplay
- Online multiplayer
- Yet another awesome retro-revival
- No online leaderboards or local multiplayer
- Short campaign
Score: 9.0/10 (Outstanding)