Game Review

High Voltage Hot Rod Show Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

Will this highly anticipated WiiWare racer take pole position, or will it merely drive us to distraction?

High Voltage Hot Rod Show is all about taking control of large trucks and racing them against each other, which is all well and good. However, because of certain game design choices, the trucks themselves handle more like a cross between an R/C car and a skateboard. In real life, not too many trucks can perform a "hop" (at least that was true last time we checked). Fewer still can hop and then flip over end to end in mid-air and land on their wheels, miraculously gaining a speed boost from doing so. Suffice it to say that realism is obviously not what the designers were going for here, so let’s just play along and see how WiiWare’s latest hi-octane racer turns out.

The gameplay is actually quite engaging. It’s your typical top-down view in which you race to complete a set number of laps faster than the other drivers, which are played by either the computer or up to three other humans (local play only). Each of the six courses is littered with twists, turns, and obstacles that can either slow your progress or help you depending on your skill. Even though the trucks handle nothing like one would expect, for what it is the game is still a joy to play.

As with most racers, the driving skills you develop as you become more experienced with the controls will play a large part in determining whether or not you win. Most of your challenge comes not from driving or steering. Rather, the primary focus of the game is to perform mid-air stunts after jumping off a ramp. These stunts provide you with a speed boost upon landing. The more stunts you perform in a jump, the greater your speed boost. However, performing a stunt too late will result in your truck toppling and costing you speed; the key to winning the game is to get good at performing these stunts and to do them as often as possible.

There are other secondary considerations to driving. The ever-popular speed boost arrow is present here. Also you can ram enemy trucks causing them to lose control. There is a powerslide feature for rounding corners, but we found this to be far less convenient or advantageous than simply rounding the corner at full speed. But these other considerations pale in comparison to performing mid-air stunts. The game is sort of a one-trick pony in that respect and may look somewhat silly to an outsider catching his first glimpse of a screen full of trucks hopping and spinning around a race track. Those concerns aside, these mechanics are still fun and rewarding for at least a little while.

Where the game really shines is in its control options. Every controller option is available for you to choose from, including the steering wheel and the Gamecube controller. This is great for racing game fans as it means you can continue to use your controller of choice. However, we found that the difficulty of the game fluctuates dramatically depending on the controller you use. This is especially true of the steering wheel. In Mario Kart, the steering wheel is slightly more difficult to use than the other options, but here the tracks are much narrower and the steering much more sensitive. This results in very over responsive steering making the steering wheel considerably more challenging. Obviously, practice makes perfect and some players will enjoy this added challenge, but their friends playing with the other controller options will find the game to be a breeze by comparison.

The game features three difficulty levels in the single player campaign. However, all three are pretty easy and most veterans of Mario Kart, F-Zero or other racers will likely win the first place trophy on their first attempt. There are only six courses, so they will be reused throughout the campaign. After you have played them a few times, you will be able to improve your score through memorization. However, this is not necessary in the single player game as the computer players will not be much of a challenge.

One of the game's weaknesses is the challenge level. Other racing games have been accused of "rubber-banding" (the technique of adjusting the skills of computer players in game to ensure that every race is close). That does not seem to be in effect here as players will either win or lose to the computer entirely based on their own driving skills. There are no items to help you catch up when you are behind, you’re just stuck there unless you start to drive better. Similarly, once you take the lead, nothing is likely to take that lead away from you unless you make some mistakes. The result is a game that is admittedly more skill oriented, but also more boring as players are unlikely to interact with one another very much during a race.

When players venture over to the time trial mode they will find both local and online leaderboards to compare top finishing times with others. This might sound like not much of a big deal, but it is surprisingly rare for such a feature to be included in a Wiiware game and, with only six courses, should help provide some lasting entertainment for those looking for an excuse to keep playing the same tracks over and over.

For a game that features truck racing, one would expect the trucks to be featured more prominently. You can unlock additional skins by beating each skill level, but aside from an initial view at the start of a race, all of the trucks are viewed from the top down during a race and so do not really look all that different, regardless of which truck or skin you choose. Worse, all of the trucks race the same. There are no individual characteristics like engine power, sharp cornering or any of the sort typically found in racing games. The lack of such may make the game fairer as it puts all of the players on a level playing field, but it wastes an opportunity for a lot of the fun that comes from experimenting and trying different vehicles and only contributes to the overall lack of longevity in the game.


High Voltage Hot Rod Show is lots of fun to play. With its emphasis on stunts rather than items or vehicle tweaking the game carves out a niche seen more often in snowboarding games than in vehicle racing. Although the game is catchy and unique, players should not expect it to live up to the standards set by the big names in videogame racing. Its short course list, lack of online play, and easy computer opponents mean that the game will have a short lifespan unless you bring some friends over to play it with you. Even so, with its amusing and easy to pick up and play mechanics, multiple controller options, and easy-on-the-eyes graphics, this is a solid WiiWare release worth investigating.

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User Comments (65)



Terra said:

At least you guys can download it. I'm never gonna stop complaining about this issue until Europe gets it's share of HVS games.



AlexSays said:

So it's just like Gyrostarr.
Good enough to get by but nothing spectacular.

Once again High Voltage can't make that one stand-out game. Until they do that they're just a mediocre developer.
Looks like their next chance will be The Conduit.

And Snoopy's Christmas lasts year-round.



Corbs said:

Someone tell snoopy that Christmas is over. He should be getting ready for the Easter Beagle!



Dazza said:

Spot on review Spencer. I've only managed to get about 1/2 hour in on this due to a certain baby who is teething, but so far so good.

The first thing I ditched was the Wiimote controls. I couldn't get on with tilting to control the trucks too well. (Strangely I liked it in Excite Truck!). Using the Classic Controller the game is a heap of fun to play. Before long I found myself whizzing round the tracks and doing stunts at every given opportunity.

The tracks so far don't seem all that challenging and I have little problem beating the AI. Maybe that is just a reflection of my great skill though!

We'll see how I get on with this as I get a chance to play it some more, but so far a 7 seems about right to me.



Corbs said:

The tracks so far don't seem all that challenging and I have little problem beating the AI. Maybe that is just a reflection of my great skill though!

Nope. The game is just incredibly easy! (Sorry I just couldn't resist!)



danik said:

Great review looks pretty good but dont think its good enough for me to buy unless i get really bored of my other games and fancy a cheap racer which is hard to see happening at the moment with call of duty online and guitar hero world tour to play! I think if it had online play i would have probalay bought it as it gives it a lasting appeal to go back and play again! Still i can see it doing pretty well



AlexSays said:

Is there any story or different endings with each character?

I didn't even play the game and I can answer that one. lol
No there is not. Glad I could help.

He should be getting ready for the Easter Beagle!

And skip Valentines Day?
That's crazy talk.



Bahamut_ZERO said:


I mean, ahen, I propsed the idea of a 7 in comments a while ago



Ricardo91 said:

@Corbie. I already told him, but he won't give it up.

And once again, a High Voltage game turns out to be just decent, not anything special. Hopefully the Conduit will show what this company is really made of.



Shiryu said:

Hope to see it in Europe soon... but im worried, the amazing Gyrostarr from High Voltage has yet to arrive over here... whats going on!?



Cthuloops said:

The amazing Gyrostarr isn't actually that amazing unless you get 3 or 4 players going. With 1 or 2 players it is really boring and repetitive.



tatemon555 said:

WOOHOO!!! I'll probably get this, as I love racers and am getting bored of Mario Kart 64. I own two 7/10 rated games (Defend Your Castle, Gyrostarr), and they are both very fun games, especially with friends.



Objection said:

@AlexSays-Hey, HVS could do worse than "mediocre" (How is 7/10 mediocre, which means average AKA 5/10 here) developing. They have a better track record than many WW developers.



AlexSays said:

@ tatemon555 -- Because I'm such a kind, caring, compassionate, and loving person.
Or so I've been told.

They have a better track record than many WW developers.

Yeah but that doesn't make them great. It just means the others suck. lol
Look at Gameloft. Are they a solid developer or just mediocre?
You said mediocre, right? Great me too.
Yet they've given us (according to this site) better games than High Voltage.

When High Voltage started announcing all these new games, people thought they'd be the next best developer on the Wii.
That hasn't happened.
They need one AWESOME game to make people say "Wow those guys are good".
That hasn't happened and until it does they are right there with Gameloft, Bplus etc.

High Voltage needs a stand-out game to lift themselves up to the same level as Frontier, Two Tribes, 2D Boy, and even the big guys at Hudson.



Crazynoodle said:

I totaly agree with alexsays, high voltage has just been making mediocre to ok games, i hope the conduit will be amazing and live up 2 the hype, they need that standout game



Gabbo said:

As AlexSays says, no story here. Just racing.

I prefer the Wiimote/nunchuk myself. There's something elegant about shaking the remote to do a stunt.

I think it's great that you're downloading the game based on the strength of my review. I'll go download Family Glide Hockey right now because of your awesome review!



CBattles6 said:

For a studio their size, you can't expect every game to be a winner (especially since I bet they're putting a lot into the Conduit). I agree that the Conduit should be a standout game, but don't sleep on Animales de la Muerte. If that game lives up to the videos I've been seeing, we may have another huge WiiWare hit on our hands.



Corbs said:

I think it's great that you're downloading the game based on the strength of my review. I'll go download Family Glide Hockey right now because of your awesome review!

I've heard of taking one for the team, but that's downright insane!



AlexSays said:

For a studio their size, you can't expect every game to be a winner

You mean being the biggest independent developer on the planet?
Are they too big now or something? lol

And sacrificing quality to pop out a bunch of games doesn't exactly work in their favor either.



AVahne said:

looks like a decent racer for wiiware,far better than SPOGS so that should motivate people to buy it.i think ill wait for that snowboarding game instead though



Adam said:

Like in an academic scoring system, 60% may technically be above the midway section of possible points, but it's certainly below average and a failing grade. So like it or not, a 7 in most game reviewing score systems indicates a game that isn't that great but isn't that bad either (aka average). As Snoopy says, HVS hasn't done anything but mediocre work so far. I personally don't expect any better from Evasive Space, either, from the looks of it.

And who knows if it is possible for any game to live up to Conduit's hype...



slambert215 said:

I KNEW it was going to get a 7.
HVS needs to step up to the plate now. 7s are respectable, but they need to work harder next game.



Objection said:

@AlexSays- Oh I was not really defending HVS so much as questioning the use of the word "mediocre." By definition this means average but most people think of it as meaning "below average or acceptability." I too hope that HVS releases a game that can be considered great or a must-have instead of merely decent or acceptable (especially compared to the other developers you hinted at.) Also, I've noticed a 500% increase in your LOLs this month. In a good mood? (I am, I just discovered MGS2.)



KnucklesSonic8 said:

@Corbie: XD! (RE: Your insane comment)

Thanks for the great review. I got the game a couple hours before the Review was published and although I've only played a half-hour of it thus far, I must say, it IS great.

I got a great feeling Evasive Space is gonna outdo Gyrostarr. It's one of my most anticipated WiiWare titles right now and I can't wait for it to come out this month.

'Till then, though, this game is quite good. Time Trials weren't EXACTLY what I expected (I expected a Triple-Lap run through, not continuous laps in an effort to beat your Lap Time) but it's still worth noting. I came in 6th on one of the tracks! My initials are KNX so look out for me! lol.

The game is better than expected, though, and while Online Play would've made this a must-buy, I still say that I'm pleasantly surprised with how this game turned out.



CanisWolfred said:

Much better than I expected, considering the fact that I was expecting it to be terrible. I won't be getting this, considering the fact that I just got a bunch of better racing games to play.

And nice job on the review, Gabbo, it was top-notch (I'm probably misusing that phrase, but what the hell).



XCWarrior said:

I don't like the fact that it is not difficult. If it has difficulty modes, one of them should actually provide difficulty.



Stratos said:

I've been wanting a decent racer for a while since MKWii has little interest for me and the last one I got was MK-DS. So I may get this next time I put down some $$$ on some points.



fxtek76 said:

Since this is High Voltage I wanted to ask the staff if they have heard anything else on the release of Animales de la Muerte.



Corbs said:

So far it seems as if Animales de la Muerte will most likely be a retail release instead of the WiiWare release it was originally planned to be. They're being rather tight-lipped about it.



WiiMan192 said:

Excellent review, Corbie! I would download this, but due to HVS's 'NA Only' philosophy, I doubt this will be released here anytime soon.



Corbs said:

Wow I'm such a great reviewer that I don't even have to review the game to get credit for it. I'm all powerful.



calculon said:

I'm guessing Animales = vaporware. When and if HVS pull their head out their ass and get European distribution going,HRS will definitely be my first HVS purchase - nothing else they've done is even remotely interesting imho.



ness said:

For me it is too pricey.

@ Adam (#28): "So like it or not, a 7 in most game reviewing score systems indicates a game that isn't that great but isn't that bad either (aka average)."

It's not average, it's good. Look at the Scoring Policy of WiiWare-World:

7 - Good

A seven is not average in our eyes. This game will sport a few areas where the game is blatantly let down to the detriment of its overall quality and enjoyment, but it is NOT average. A seven is still a recommendation, but you might want to consider what we thought let the game down and decide for yourself if it would bother you before buying.



Chunky_Droid said:

Animales de la Muerte would probably benefit from being a retail game, they won't be as restricted with the title,

Glad to see this got a 7, though some DLC to alleviate the shortage of tracks would have been nice.



EJD said:

This sounds better than I anticipated, I thought it would get a 5. Not a bad week completely then and at least there's an alternative to SPOGS for racing WiiWare games. I'll most likely get this as soon as it comes to Europe. Bring on more racing games!



Adam said:

@ ness
All the 5 and lower rated games sound pretty awful, so I will consider 7 average. Other people can call it good if they want, the site included. An "average" game can still be a "recommendation." Nothing necessarily wrong with an average game. That said, I really put no faith in the number system, anyway. I just read the reviews and watch the trailers in those rare cases that a WiiWare game looks potentially decent.



Philip_J_Reed said:

This is a great review and the game actually sounds pretty fun, but without Wi-Fi play I don't think I'll get it. Right now Mario Kart is enough for me. If it had online play I'd pick it up as an alternative...but without it, there's not really a point.

Shame, because I kind of want it...but for $10 I'd need that extra push into the online realm to make it worth while.



-TR said:

I was doubting this would be very good, actualy.

I think it would be better had they dropped the 'High Voltage'...



Wiiloveit said:

Can't wait to give this a go - and I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by the review. Come on, HVS: bring your games to Europe!



Terra said:

Even though they may not be The most awesome WiiWare games produced by one single dev, i'd still like to see them in Europe as an option at least. Maybe we should do a petition to get it released over here. That tactic seems to be starting to work for that game "Winter", although the circumstances are fairly different and as a much bigger title, it could be harder for it to get released as it hasn't got a publisher.

That's for Winter. What do you European/Australian Gamers think? Should we do one? I'm not saying that the petition will work but we might as well give it a shot



Gabbo said:

Speaking of the characters, one of them ( I don't remember which) has a dukes of hazard horn that sometimes plays during a big jump. Sadly, that was probably my favorite moment in the game.



AlexSays said:

@ Objection_Blaster -- Well of course I'm using more lols.
2009 is the year of change!



tatemon555 said:

@ AlexSays comment 22: I see. And at your 53rd comment, 2009 certainly is the year of change.



Terra said:

I didn't start it, i'm just trying to spread the word. We need more games like that on Wii.

I know. Why is that with C64 games? Europe has the C64 and Japan has the MSX exclusives, so maybe the US should get one of the Atari Consoles, the CD-i or even the 3DO.



Flaviohmg said:

So far is my favorite WiiWare Game, i understand the problems with space limit, but this game has already the right formula to a funny racing game!



KnucklesSonic8 said:

Your favourite WiiWare game? Well that's certainly quite the praise!

But I do agree that despite the space issue, the graphics are great and the game itself is fun to play.




"....here the tracks are much narrower and the steering much more sensitive. This results in very over responsive steering making the steering wheel considerably more challenging"

For me its a big disappointment when a WII racing game doesn't control well with the Wii Wheel.



MegaAdam said:

I'm a little late to the party, I guess.

I wanted a new racing game and came investigating. The lack of different vehicles (from a gameplay perspective) and only 6 tracks for $10 was going to vote it down, but the fact that a Dukes of Hazzard horn plays on giant jumps in one of the trucks is going to win this game a purchase. I can forgive a lack of content when there's solid gameplay. Too bad there's no online multiplayer.



Gabbo said:

I don't know. It looks like that got left out in the site redesign that happened a couple months ago. Perhaps it will be added back in later?

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