When Excite Truck launched alongside the Nintendo Wii console it was the perfect showpiece for showing off the Wii console's motion controls while still providing a true arcade racing experience for gamers to sink their teeth into. While the game lacked the real-life physics and game play of some of the current generation's more realistic racing titles, it introduced an over-the-top intensity that couldn't be matched when it came to slamming on the accelerator and going full tilt through the game's various tracks. Now with the release of the sequel, Nintendo once again unleashes the insane racing action but this time around they add a bit more variety to the overall package, not to mention some of the absolute coolest robotic vehicles ever seen in a racing game.
There are several racing modes to choose from in Excitebots. 'Excite Race' is the heart of the package and can be played either as a single-player experience or you can team up with another local opponent in the split-screen versus game. The game is broken down into five Cups, each one featuring five tracks to race through. When you begin the game, only the first Cup is available so you'll have to earn a B grade or better on each track to unlock the next one. You earn high grades by finishing races in first place and by performing lots of fancy aerial acrobatics that will earn you star points. The more star points you earn in each race, the better the overall grade will be at the end. You'll also be able to use these star points to purchase better racing bots, which can make earning the higher grades much easier in the later races.
'Poker Race' is the other game mode in Excitebots and provides an interesting twist on the Excite Race mode. In Poker Race you must gather up playing cards that are strung across various sections of the track. Your ultimate goal is to form poker hands that you can score to earn star points. You can even choose which cards to replace as you drive along. This adds a whole new strategy to the standard race and forces you to decide ahead of time what cards you want to pick up. The better the poker hand, the more star points you'll earn and the better grade you'll receive for the track. While Poker Race is a nice change of pace from the standard races, it does tend to take away some of the all-out intensity of the main game mode.
Next up is the online Wi-Fi mode. This is where you can join a group of up to five other racers from around the world to compete in either the Excite Race or Poker Racer modes. Both modes still feature the same rules and goals, only this time you can feel the true multi-player racing action the game features. If ever there were a game that truly puts the Nintendo Wii's Wi-Fi capabilities to good use it's Excitebots. The time spent waiting to join a game is minimal and you'll still be able to choose which bot you want to use as well as what track you'd like to race in. The game then randomly picks the track chosen by one of the six players in your group and the race commences. The racing action is just as intense as ever and you'll get the chance to compete against some of the best Excitebot racers the world has to offer. You can even send one of your replays or a racing challenge to one of your friends.
While there are mini-games strung throughout all of the races in the game, you can also choose to play them individually. They range from Darts, where you'll have to launch a giant dart from your Excitebot at a giant bulls-eye target, to Bowling where you merely ram your vehicle into a set up bowling pins. There are 10 mini-games to choose from and they all represent an excellent way to pratice for when you face these challenges during the actual races. You can even compete against a local opponent in each of the mini-games as well. The quality of each event varies but they break up the pace of the game nicely.
The motion controls in Excitebots are extremely similar to those found in the original Excite Truck release. You can choose to use either the Wii Remote by itself, or pop your Wii Remote into the wheel attachment for a more realistic racing experience. You still have one button for acceleration and one button for braking and reverse. You also have the "B" button, which will give your bots a serious turbo boost. While this boost will come in quite handy when you need to make up some ground on your racing opponents, you'll have to use it sparingly or you'll end up overheating your bot; this will result in a brief period of restricted speed while the boost recharges.
Aerial stunts also play a huge role in the game, ranging from mid-air spins to high-flying backflips. These stunts are where you can earn some big star points if you're skillful enough. You'll also be able to grab Question Mark Triggers along the way that can earn you special attack powers that can be used against the other racers. There's nothing quite like pulling the giant hammer out and smashing the opposing racers as flat as a pancake. You'll sometiems even trigger one of the various mini-games to add even more star point earning potential to the mix. It's this unique combination of out-of-control racing physics blended with the smooth Wii motion controls that make the game such an absolute blast to play, alone or with friends.
Visually speaking, Excitebots is also very impressive. Each of the tracks features loads of detail and some of the most vibrant colors seen in a Wii title. But for all the lush surroundings, nothing stands out quite like the blur effect that you'll see whenever your vehicle starts moving at a really high rate of speed. You'll catch yourself pressing the turbo boost button just to see the backgrounds streak by with the fancy motion blur in full effect. Couple these impressive visual feats with the fact that every track has its own distinct look and style and you have what is one of the more impressive Wii graphics experiences the system has to offer, especially considering how blisteringly fast things tend to move by onscreen.
Not to be outdone by the eye-popping visuals of the game, the audio package manages to hit a high note also. There's plenty of catchy tunes to help carry the flat-out intensity of the game's racing action, and there are even a few tunes that directly fit in with the current race track location. You'll know you're in Egypt long before you see a pyramid just by listening to the musical track playing in the background. The sound effects are also quite good. You'll get your fill of engine revving and turbo boosts, not to mention that all-too-pleasing sound of your hammer smashing an opponent's bot into oblivion. And if you are fortunate enough to own a good Dolby sound system, prepare to rattle the walls with Excitebots. It's clear that Nintendo put every bit as much thought and effort into the audio package as they did the visuals and it pays off big in the finished product.
If you're looking for a realistic racing experience then I'm sorry to report that you've come to the wrong place. Excitebots isn't about an authentic racing experience, it's about flooring the accelerator and holding on for dear life. As good as the original Excite Truck release was, Excitebots brings so much more to the table with its unique robotic insect and animal-themed vehicles and all-new gameplay additions. Excitebots takes all of the patented over-the-top racing action of the original Excite Truck and steps it up about 10 notches. The end result is one of the most enjoyable Nintendo Wii titles to date and a game that's almost impossible to put down once you begin playing it. It may not feature the depth of Gran Turismo or Forza, but its a damn sight more entertaining.