Excitebots – the WTF-iest game of 2009

Excitebots had an uphill struggle from the moment it was announced. The name betrays the fact it’s a re-skinned version of 2006’s all-motion racer Excite Truck, now loaded with robotic insects and animals instead of diesel-gulping vehicles. Kinda hard to get worked up about a remix of a years-old game that didn’t make a big splash the first time around.

However, Excitebots has one thing Truck never did – a heaping does of “WTF?” that keeps you glued to the screen. Every car, lap and course in the game is saturated with “they have to be on drugs” moments that make up for the rehashed concept. We’ve isolated five specific instances that help make this under-the-radar racer more than April filler.

So, instead of cars you have Transformer-esque robo-cars that shift between vehicle and animal form:

As with the excited trucks, each ‘bot has its own attributes (weight, grip, turbo duration/power) and a plethora of colors to choose from. When they’re in car form, you could easily mistake the game for some kind of wackoHot Wheels racer, but certain power-ups (mentioned later) transform them into gangly mechanized athletes, ready to stomp, fly or fling to the finish line.

Before moving on, we’d just like to reiterate that you’re racing as a bat, frog, grasshopper, turtle, centipede, mantis and something that, based on the silhouette (we haven’t unlocked it yet) looks a lot like a crab. No cars, no people, just robot animals. What the eff.

It’s perfectly understandable, even at this point, to brush Excitebots off. The goofy ‘bots and silly name do make it tough to take seriously. But, like Excite Truck, the courses are perfectly designed for blinding speed and 1080 degree spins that constantly reward you stars for bigger and better driving. In other words, this game is fast.

Above: Almost F-Zero caliber speed, people

Sprinkled throughout each course are several methods of gaining even more speed, more air and more stunt bonuses. And, seeing as winning the race is reliant on placement as well as star totals, you’ll be utilizing every single trick on the track, from Excite Truck-holdovers like turbo speed and terrain-changing buttons that raise and lower hills, to the new speed bars seen below.

Above: The red bar has you moving the remote in a boat-rowing motion in time with the spinning ‘bot. Perfect spinning results in a huge burst of speed

Above: Yellow bars require you to push forward at the proper time, rocketing the ‘bot forward – mess it up and you’ll careen off in a jumbled mess

Above: The backflip bar is usually located high the sky, accessed only by massive turbo leaps. Snag it, and you’ll soar to this height, and spring ahead

It all adds up to a nonstop barrage of “GO GO GO!” that never blinks, never pauses to ask questions, just wants you to move ahead as quickly as possible. Combine all the stunts and air with constant praise from the HUD…

… and you have a racer that’s built for speed. And, all the while, the courses behave like no other game we can think of, changing, shifting and hurling you all over the place, lending even more “WTF” to the pile.

Mario Kart has shells and banana peels. Once that was strange, but now it’s commonplace after 16 years of power-sliding Bowser into the drink. WipEout has the speed, but weapons are of typical design. That can’t be said about Excitebots. Not at all.

Above: The leg power-up converts your ‘bot into its animal form, letting you sprint ahead and crush any other racer caught in your path

Above: The tambourine bangs out the first five notes of theshave and a haircutbeat, then has you finish it by pressing ‘A’ twice. Do it and you get a boost, but please realize you just got a boost from a friggin’ tambourine

Above: Teeth act like homing missiles that harass the other ‘bot until shaken off. If you’re caught in them, you literally have to shake the remote to break free

Obviously there are more than three weapons, but given that the unexpected is part of the game’s charm, we don’t want to get into the rocket, the hammer and other goodies that dot the track. We will, however, share some of the “WTF-iest” screens on the next page, right after you soak up this video that collects what we’ve just gone over.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.