When so many modern racing games favor hyper-realism and street cred over playfulness and accessibility, it’s nice to see one that kicks all that macho nonsense in the teeth every once in a while. There’s nothing even remotely serious about piloting a transformable robot animal-vehicle (frog, mantis, ladybug, bat and more) at breakneck speeds through steep, mountainous courses. Especially when those courses are filled with random floating poles to spin around on, soccer balls to knock into goals, pies to launch at giant floating clown heads, tambourines for tapping “Shave and a Haircut” on to gain a quick boost, and other ridiculousness. And that’s why Excitebots: Trick Racing is ultimately such a blast.
We know the concept sounds a little absurd. But developer Monster Games’ wacky robot racer builds on the strengths of its predecessor, Excite Truck, in ways that make it a more enjoyable experience. At their core, the two games play very similarly, utilizing a simple sideways Wii Remote setup with tilt-sensitive steering controls and buttons jabs for gas, breaks, and boosting. You’ll find yourself thundering around numerous winding race tracks in exotically detailed locations that blur as you zip past.
Running over certain boxes causes the terrain to morph and shift as you go, and an equal amount of time is spent between tearing up terra firma and launching yourself outrageously high into the air to pull off crazy tricks. Ranking in first-place isn’t as crucial as executing enough stunts to earn the minimum number of stars needed to move on to subsequent races and unlock extra tracks.
The most immediately noticeable difference in Excitebots is that you get to pilot a giant mechanical grasshopper, hummingbird, frog, or some other odd creature. All of the game’s 12 different robo-critters can alternately roll on wheels, get up and run on two legs, or spread out and glide at different points in each race. Each one sports a slick design and has its own weight, handling, and speed attributes.
Beyond the charm of racing a big robot bug (or some other critter), the game throws tons or random silliness into your path. You’ll be cruising along and suddenly pick up weird stuff like a big dart that can be chucked at a passing target, a soccer ball you’ll have to swerve into to knock into a goalie net, the necessary ingredients to make a sandwich, and even false teeth you can send chomping towards nearby opponents. The near-endless array of often wild and creative antics keeps things lively and injects a dose of humor into the otherwise intense and speedy racing gameplay.
Aside from a handful of extensive solo circuits to race on, there’s a poker game mode that has you picking up cards to play hands and earn points while racing and plenty of minigames to test your mettle. Online multiplayer is a great addition, letting you place bets on races against up to five other players to rack up large amounts of stars that can be spend on unlocking new rides, collectible figurines, and other goodies. All around, Excitebots is a step up from its four-wheeled cousin and possibly just bizarre enough to hold your attention for far longer.
Apr 24, 2009