Nitrobike is the sort of outrageous racing game that you desperately want to like. In every race, you're mashing the turbo button, performing death-defying tricks, and literally destroying the track as you try to beat the other riders to the finish line. Unfortunately, you're also fighting the Wii remote every step of the way just to stay pointed in the right direction, which quickly transforms what ought to be a lovey-dovey relationship into a trip to Brokenheartsville.
As the title says, what we have here are bikes with rockets strapped to them. Performing tricks gives you more nitro, pressing the boost button makes you go faster, and going faster lets you get crazy hang time off of hills and ramps. Bumping into decorations during your flight will often cause pieces of those signs and structures to break away and fall onto the track, turning them into obstacles that the other riders must avoid. A race sure becomes more interesting when you look ahead and see a burning airplane wing sitting there.
That over-the-top mentality is what sets Nitrobike apart from traditional motocross games. You've seen top dog, elimination, and gate-crasher style events before, but they gain fresh energy here because you're leaping three hills in a single jump or plowing through a camera tower that another rider just knocked over. There's also rarely a moment where you're not speeding through dust clouds or kicking mud back into the camera.
All of those sweet, messy details help make up for the fact that the action frequently slows to a crawl, and that the graphics, just on the whole, aren't as sharp as they should be. The explosions of mud and fire also make it easier to ignore the droning engine noises and the generic 80's rock that's supposed to pass for music.
Sadly, the one flaw you won't be able to ignore is how unpredictable the controls are. Following in the footsteps of Nintendo's Excite Truck, Nitrobike employs a "waggle only" control scheme whereby you hold the Wii remote horizontally and physically tilt it to steer your bike. Turning the remote like you would actual handlebars feels intuitive and should help draw you into the action. However, the game isn't consistent in interpreting those movements. Will you gradually veer through a curve, spin a doughnut, or not turn at all and slam into the wall? Those are the possibilities every time you gently move one side of the remote.
If this were a perfect world, Nitrobike's controls wouldn't be broken and we'd be celebrating it as the first Wii game to offer online play. After all, Excite Truck didn't let you get six people together for relatively lag-free lap or eliminator races. But this isn't a perfect world, and the erratic controls make it tough to get any enjoyment at all out of Nitrobike, let alone leave open the possibility that you'll want to share your misery with others.
Jan 18, 2007