We've already seen a few racing titles released on the WiiWare service, although, to be fair, many of them have been fairly substandard. So any time a new racing title is released, it's generally met with not only a small degree of anticipation, but also a solid helping of caution and scepticism as well. Stunt Cars brings yet another racing title to the WiiWare service, but tries to do so with a few gameplay twists here and there. Unfortunately, the game never seems to feel like it knows exactly which direction it wants to turn and ultimately ends up feeling more tedious than fun.
If you tackle the game as a single-player experience you can do everything from race in the game's Championship mode to merely taking a few spins around a specific track in a Time Trial. Championship mode will take you through the game's various racing cups, each with four tracks that you can take on in either the intended order or a random order if you so choose. This is a good way to earn driver's points and increase your ranking. Time Trial allows you to race a set number of laps around a track in order to achieve the fastest time for that particular track. You can even race against the Replay Car of the current fastest time to gauge your progress.
If you can round up a few friends, you can also take on one of the game's multiplayer modes. You can choose to go head to head with up to three other players in a split-screen race or even race in a two-on-two Team Race if you have four players to hand. There's also the Tournament mode, which is honestly the meat of the multiplayer action, and allows all players to race the game's main set of races and compete for the highest score. While the single-player mode might be fun for those who don't have other players around to play the game with, you'll get far more enjoyment out of the game if you can round up some additional players.
There are several ways to control your car, depending on your particular preferences. You can use the Wii Remote by itself in either a sideways position using the D-Pad or setting the game to control via the Wii Remote's tilt function, which will also allow you to use the Wii Wheel if you prefer it. You can also connect a Nunchuk and use its analogue stick to control your car. The control setup is fairly standard with one button to accelerate, one button to break or go in reverse and a turbo boost that you can use to catch some big air off of the the game's many ramps. You can even pull off a small variety of stunts, although they don't feel like they really belong in the race and tend to slow you down more than anything else. The real problem lies in the game's somewhat loose control, and adding in the tilt function only seems to make the matter worse at times. You're honestly better off sticking with either the D-Pad or analogue stick to control your car, at least if you plan to stay on the track and compete with the other racers.
Even with the impressive set of racing modes and the dozen or so achievements that can be earned, Stunt Cars' gameplay system just feels a bit thrown together at times, and the erratic AI doesn't help matters. It's not only frustrating to have to wait as the game picks you up and places you back on the track each time you make even the slightest movement off of the track, but it generally takes you from first place to dead last for even one misstep on the track. Multiplayer tends to help matters a little bit, but even that can be a battle of wills since one mistake can put you so far behind that it's difficult to catch up. In the end the game could have used a bit more balance and a tightened-up control system in order to be the playable racing experience fans of the genre expect. Even with all the bells and whistles, the game still proves to be extremely bland in both its style and execution.
The visuals in Stunt Cars are a mixed bag. While there are moments where the game's graphical presentation shines, there are far more times when the grainy visuals seem to stick out with their lack of polish and inherent amounts of flickering. Even the textures of the tracks tend to be very generic and seem like the same few pieces of texture repeated over and over. The cars themselves show a decent amount of detail and movement, but it's still not enough to ultimately cover up many of the game's other visual shortcomings. While the game tries to be visually flashy at times, it just doesn't have the smoothness gamers tend to expect from a racing title.
The musical score of the game is much like the visuals: it never seems to get off the ground. There are a few catchy tracks in the soundtrack, but many of the musical tunes just don't feel like they belong in a racing game of this type. It doesn't help that the game doesn't make use of many sound effects, with even any type of car acceleration sound effect either missing or being completely overshadowed by the game's musical package. Toss in a game announcer that pops up only long enough to shout out a word or short phrase here or there and you pretty much have the entire audio presentation of the game in a rather disappointing nutshell.
Despite the game's name, there is very little emphasis on actually performing stunts in the game and to make matters worse, what racing action there is tends to be very basic and offers little in the way of intensity. Stunt Cars feels like it's trying to do too many things at once and gives the game a very erratic feeling at times, making you wonder exactly what the developers were ultimately going for when they put the game together.
Unless you just have to own every single racing game that comes out, you'd probably be far better off avoiding this rather lacklustre WiiWare racing effort. As difficult as you'd think it would be to mess up a racing game, the developers of Stunt Cars have somehow managed to do just that.