With a few exceptions – Excitebike: World Rally and Heracles: Chariot Racing chief among them – WiiWare is pretty thin on family-friendly, well-received racing titles, so the thinking behind Mister Bumblebee Racing Champion is clear. Sadly, the best thing about this game is likely to be its title.
The key twist here is that all the characters fly rather than stick to a track. Your speed is set with a bar, meaning you can hold until the bar fills then release and concentrate on navigating, which in the default control scheme is handled by the D-Pad. This digital method of steering is predictably jerky and imprecise, but switching to motion controls is just as twitchy and with no sensitivity options you're left bumping from one object to another until you've wrangled the controls down.
Once the controller is obeying you you're able to delve into the available game modes. To its credit, there's more than just simple time attacks here, with Ghost, Knockout and Countdown modes included to offer some extra longevity. One thing that's sorely missing, however, is any form of championship or cup mode, resulting in lots of one-off races without any real thread to connect them together.
The rest of the game suffers from similarly curious design choices that presumably stem from its heritage as an iPhone title. Each track is completely bordered, meaning you can never venture off-road for shortcuts or power-ups, severely limiting the amount of freedom at your fingertips. Touching another racer destroys your character whilst leaving the other insect intact, and although there are items to collect they don't spice up the very basic formula.
There is at least a range of options to liven up proceedings, with four-player racing supported and options to increase the number of available power-ups and even speed the game up to a manic pace. Sadly the increased speed doesn't make it a better game, though it does inject a little excitement into the otherwise too-slow races. One of the game's major problems is it never feels as though you're competing: with three opponents and no physical interaction between them there's no satisfaction in jostling for position, leaving the game feeling a bit sterile.
The game fares better graphically than many other iPhone to Wii transitions – please stand up, WarMen Tactics – but it suffers from bland textures and very basic character modelling that removes any life from the racers, not to mention the butterfly's massive wings obscuring where you're going. It's a similarly poor performance on the audio side, with repetitive music and sound effects that you'll likely want to switch off as soon as possible.
For 500 Points it's hard to be too critical of this game: its only crime is to be mediocre. Ultimately, however, the poor presentation, lacklustre design and dull racing conspires to drag poor old Mister Bumblebee down.