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ExciteBots: Trick Racing
From: Nintendo
For: Wii
Genre: Racing, Action, Driving
ESRB Rating: Everyone (6+)
ExciteBots: Trick Racing
Lacking the disclaimer "any resemblance to other games living or dead is purely coincidental," ExciteBots is a barefaced ExciteTruck knock-off. But it sure is fun.
Posted April 27, 2009
Funny thing about the motion-sensitive Wii Remote controller (Wii-mote): it's best utility is to serve as a wireless, virtual steering wheel (or handle bars), yet there's a surprising dearth of driving games on Wii. Instead, it seems most every game developer and their puppy is churning out titles embracing the waggle, yank, tug, shake, wrench, break-the-TV tomfoolery the Wii has become notorious for passing off as new-generation "fun."

So it follows that Nintendo's new ExciteBots: Trick Racing stands out by being in relatively rare company; a driving game. Who knew?

That said, ExciteBots is sorely lacking in originality. It's not so much a sequel to the engaging Wii launch title, ExciteTruck, but rather a stark-raving knock-off of ExciteTruck. It features the exact same gameplay mechanics, in fact, right down to the blasé graphics, the horizontal Wii-mote candy bar method for gas/brake/turbo/steer, the on-the-fly terrain deformation, the impossibly huge whaahoo!-airtime jumps and soaring stunts, the temporary turbo-charged speed bursts, the smashing and crashing, short-cutting and winning for points and prizes, blah blah blah.

Pasted on top of that, however, is a fresh but predictable take on vehicles to be driven and the unique abilities of those vehicles. ExiteBots, as the name implies, are robots - isn't that exciting? Actually, they're like Transformers, a racing vehicle in one form and a transmogrifying robotic rendition of a walking bug, rodent or frog in another. Walking your ExciteBot is rare, thank goodness; a temporary special ability that nets you a super-duper turbo whooper if you mange to waggle a walking motion and steer at the same time.

Most of the time you're driving - or flying or gliding after a particularly successful jump - and occasionally you'll punt a soccer ball, toss a dart or mow down some bowling pins on-the-fly, along with other humorous non sequitur bonus tasks.

ExciteBots each have a retractable top-side claw that will pop out in the presence of an energy pole conveniently placed somewhere along each track. Your 'Bot will grab this crossbar (sometimes a vertical pole or a grind rail) and whip around it like a gymnast readying for a dismount, requiring a two-handed gyration gesture from you (or a sudden forward thrust motion or balancing act). Having fun yet?

If you ever played and became proficient at ExciteTruck, you'll be an ExciteBot ace out of the gate, minus maybe a few minutes to get a handle on the new motions.

Unlike ExciteTruck, however, ExciteBots includes some extra mini-game play as well as an online component that, among other things, lets you race against up to 6 other real people remotely, which gives the game legs even if you've otherwise mastered and become bored with it.

For all it's derivativeness, ExciteBots: Trick Racing is a lot of fun; a more rounded fantastical racing game than the original with a few wagglish gimmicks that come off as natural... for a robot.

What's more, it's cheap. Or $10 less than your typical Wii game, anyway, and better than most of the full $50 Wii game offerings.

Speaking of which, you can also buy ExciteBots Trick Racing for a full $50 if you want the Wii Wheel bundle. The game can be configured to play with the Wii-mote held horizontal, buttons facing back as when snapped into a Wii Wheel (or using the typical controller convention of buttons-up if you don't have a Wheel).

However, the Wii Wheel isn't and never has been all it's cracked up to be, particularly if you have big hands (read: grown-up hands) and an aversion to arduously crooked thumbs. The Wii Wheel is more driver placebo than anything, but the kids seem to dig it. There you go.
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Bang for your buck:
Great Rental 
Good New Purchase 
Great Pre-played 
Excellent Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  4  (out of 5)