Howdy: * Game play is still as fun as it used to be.
* The addition of online play
* It’s ExciteBike
See Ya': * Track Editor is still a chore.
* No unique bikes to unlock.
* New perspective not that great.
Nintendo’s Wii has seen the re-release or updated versions of a lot of classic franchises in the last year. We’ve seen Mega Man, Bubble Bobble, and soon we’ll have Super Mario Bros. Less than a week before that landmark title we see the release of another classic NES franchise. 1986 seems like so long ago. To many of you reading this right now you might not have even been born when the original Excite Bike released for the NES. The game play back then was addicting and a whole lot of fun. You simply held down the A button moving left to right trying to finish the chosen race track as quickly as possible. Other, slower racers would block your movement or knock you over and there were obstacles lining the track.
Monster Games, the developer of the latest entries in the Excite franchise, Excite Trucks and Excite Bots, are back with their re-imaging of the original ExciteBike. This game features that same addictive side scrolling game play. This time though the visuals have been upped for a new generation. Gone are the blocky sprites and in their place are fully rendered 3D models. The racers are full 3D and the track, this time, is in full 3D. You can take advantage of this by changing the viewpoint from which you see the track. You can use the traditional 2D side view, or with a quick press of the A button move to a 3/4 from behind perspective letting you see a bit more of the track. I don’t recommend this method as it makes it harder to see the landings for many of your jumps and the controls don’t change to accomidate this new perspective. Each of the game’s different locations is true to it’s real life form. You’ll race from traditional tracks to the beaches of Fiji and snow covered lands in Canada.
The controls in ExciteBike were and still are very simple. Holding the 2 button makes you accelerate and pressing the 1 button gives you a turbo boost. Don’t hold this for too long though or you will overheat your engines causing you to lose valuable time while you cool down. Up and down on the D-pad allow you to change between the four lanes on the track and the left and right buttons allow to you perform wheelies or change the pitch of your bike during jumps. Performing a wheelie at the right moment will allow you to drive over some obstacles, including other racers.
The single player career is very reminiscent of the original. You’ll choose one of four cups that have four races each. You have a time limit that you are required to beat before being allowed to move onto the next race. You’re graded on your performance from D-S and getting S ranks on all the tracks will unlock additional bike colors that you can choose from, but these are all purely cosmetic and do not affect game play. You’re not racing against the other drivers on the track in this racing game, rather you’re racing against the clock. The other racers are simply to make that goal a bit harder. You also have personal leaderboards that you can see so you know just how fast you need to be to best your previous times.
Now included in this update release is the addition of online multi-player. Jumping online for a race is quick and easy. You have the option of racing random people online or entering another players Friend Code and racing against people on your friends list. You can race against up to four other players and this changes the game play slightly meaning you now have actual opponents to face off against. Winning online matches awards you points that you can use to unlock additional bikes as well. All that’s required online in the lobbys is to choose your motorcycle, pick your course and then race. The game will choose randomly between the tracks selected and you’ll be sent into the race. You run two laps on the track, fastest player wins. It’s simple, quick and quite a lot of fun.
The biggest feature of the original game was the track editor that many people spent hours using only to have those tracks erased when you turned the game off. That’s been fixed somewhat as you can now save a number of your created tracks and even share them with friends over Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. The editor is a bit clunky to use as it hasn’t been changed much from the original. You have to scroll through every option each time you place a new piece. There doesn’t seem to be a repeat feature for those times when you want to put 100 little bumps in a row. It’s not hard to use, it just could be streamlined a little bit.
In this era of retro remakes ExciteBike may seem like an odd choice to revisit, but fans of the original will quickly fall in love all over again and new players will find a racer that’s very easy to get into. Odds are that you’ll spend a lot of time building and sharing tracks and the online play is so easy to jump into there’s no real reason not to at least try it out. This is definitely a good way to spend the time you have between now and when another remake is soon released.
Final Score: 4/5 Above Average
Review copy purchased in Wii Shop Channel.