Loading up Excitebike: World Rally this week was like opening up the floodgates and unleashing a deluge of warm, fuzzy 80s gaming nostalgia. This faithfully designed remake of what was arguably one of the best 8-bit racers on the NES captures the pure essence and spirit of the original. The visual updates and online multiplayer modes catch this classic up to present times, but it’s really surprising how little the actual gameplay has changed. And 24 years later, it’s still as addictive as ever.
Hopping onto a trusty dirt bike, you’re joined by a mob of competitive rivals in a breakneck charge to the finish line. Rather than motoring along over a boring, flat track, you’ll tear through boggy mud pits, hit daredevil jumps to launch high into the air, wheelie over barriers, and cut off nearby bikers to send them sputtering to the ground in a cloud of dust. The classic control setup mirrors the original NES controls, although just holding the Wii Remote on its side works just as well. In addition to the standard gas and turbo buttons, you tap up and down on the D-pad to change between the four racing lanes. Tilting the controller left or right also makes your biker pop a wheelie or lean forward or backward in mid-air to give you softer landings. If you get knocked down or overheat, you’ll have to shake the Wii Remote for a faster recovery. Like the gameplay, the controls are simple to grasp and feel smooth in action.
When playing solo, the goal isn’t so much about beating your opponents to the checkered flag as it about getting there within the time limit. The 16 unlockable tracks set across four circuits get tougher and longer as you go, and the other racers get feistier too. Striving to shave seconds off your racing time as you zip between the four lanes and thunder through the obstacles gives World Rally a more strategic, arcade-like feel. Going online, you can jump effortlessly into competitive multiplayer matches that can actually be considered races, since you’re trying to muscle your way to the finish line ahead of the other players. These matches are a lot of fun to play, however it’s extremely disappointing that there are no local multiplayer options to be found here.
World Rally’s angled 3D look is a great update that stays in line with the original game while adding a little more variety in terms of scenery. The obstacles look exactly like they did on the NES, which makes many of the levels feel pleasantly familiar. There are also plenty of slots for building your own tracks, and the level editor itself also seems pulled straight from the original. Excitebike: World Rally is a retro remake done right. Even with the unfortunate lack of local multiplayer, this one falls under the “must buy” category.
Mar 15, 2010