TNT Racers: Nitro Machines Edition may feature vehicles, courses and chequered flags, but it’s not your typical racing game. Instead of getting to the finish line first, this one is all about getting to the finish line full stop, as you focus on pummelling your opponents out of the race while staying alive yourself.
WiiWare fans may recognise this chaotic battle racer, as it screeched into the Wii Shop early in 2012. The main premise is to do your upmost to get your fellow drivers off the track either by leaving them in your dust, pushing them off the course or by brutally annihilating them with a range of explosive weaponry.
All the gameplay is seen in an isometric viewpoint where the camera follows the frantic action around the course at the pace of the fastest drivers. This is all played out on the one screen, with the cars falling too far behind being eliminated as you go along. Put simply, it’s what you get if you take Micro Machines and throw in Mario Kart.
It’s now drifted into the Wii U eShop and it’s all the better for it. The core elements remain but this is a souped up version that really pushes the game to the limit. All the DLC you could pick up for the original is under the hood and there are a few extra challenges thrown in for good measure. The 16 unique vehicles are all back, for instance, but there are now 26 tracks — eight more than the WiiWare iteration — and 30 additional challenges on top of the 45 found in the first heat.
Each of the courses are versatile and vibrant and while the visuals may look basic at times they have enough charm in them to become lovable. There are tracks in a few different environments, including a desert, a snowy landscape, an erupting volcano and an Aztec jungle, all of which have random wildlife roaming around — not that you'll notice, you'll be far too concerned with what's coming up and what's behind you. They're all pretty basic, but this is a good thing as it accommodates the action well.
All levels have their own theme, and the whole time you race around your ears are subjected to some of the most cheerful music ever known to exist in a video game, which is in stark contrast to the massacre taking place on screen. It’s hard to moan at the music given it’s so darn happy, but after playing the same world a few times in a row, that jolly little jingle can start to feel like a form of horrific alien torture. Fortunately, you can turn it off.
The challenges are all played out in single player and start off relatively simple, although the difficulty soon revs up. They are made up of three different types: battle mode, points mode and time attack. Battle mode sees you fight for pole position, with the aim being to be the last car still intact. Finishing first gives you three points, second two and third one — there are no prizes for coming in last. This is played out in rounds and finishes when the set score has been reached.
Points mode is similar, but this time pummelling your opponents won’t be enough and you’ll need to rack up a score as you go. Different challenges have varying parameters; for example, in some cases you’ll only be able to score points from blasting your foes with weaponry, while on other occasions it’s coin collection that will be key to success.
Time attack, meanwhile, is a lot less hectic and removes all CPU opponents from the track so you can tactfully get yourself around it in the fastest time possible. There are also challenges that throw in missions to complete along the way, such as destroying a set amount of items or avoiding cones or mines. All completion times are recorded and placed onto the online leaderboards for the whole world to see, although these can be quite sluggish to load up.
The variety of tasks is good, but some are better than others. For example, sometimes the game removes all weaponry and challenges you to win on driving alone. While some of these levels work well, the ones on the simple courses can become boring as you and a rival perform perfect laps for ages until one of you makes a mistake. All cars have the same maximum speed and acceleration and once the chaos is taken away from the battles it tends to get a bit boring. Thankfully, this rarely happens.
One thing soloists will notice quickly when playing through challenge mode is the sheer difficulty. Some of the tasks can be completed first time without breaking a sweat, while others will see you retry over and over before you beat it. Normal Mode can be tricky to complete, though once you progress onto Fast Mode you start to realise "Normal" actually means "Easy". All of a sudden the cars are hurtling around the track as if they’re on a Scaletrix set during a lightning storm, and once you’ve finally managed to get to grips with it you enter Turbo mode, at which point your vehicles often go flying off the track, especially on the barrierless corners.
Challenge Mode is exactly that, a challenge, and it will keep you going for quite a long time. Once you get to the eighth race in each mode, the next one unlocks and when the two new additions, Drift Mode and Formula TNT, become available the game really switches gears.
Drift Mode does exactly what it says on the tin. The courses are designed to have you drift through the many, many corners, and whereas you could previously get away with driving like a clumsy oaf wearing oven mitts and a back-to-front balaclava in the previous races, you can’t do that here as all it takes is one false move and you’re off the track and into the abyss. This mode has been set up to really challenge your driving skill, but this doesn’t really work when you have three other cars shooting at you, dropping mines and making time speed up. Executing the perfect drift is all well and good, but when an opponent flips the track so right is now left and left is now right it becomes pretty difficult to pull off, which can be more frustrating than enjoyable.
Drift Mode comes into its own when in Time Attack. Here it’s just you and the track and it really encourages you to find the quickest route — you’ll soon see your cornering improving. It’s far from easy, but it’s highly rewardingm and considering this is a battle racer at heart, it’s surprisingly brilliant when there’s just one car on the track.
After you've mastered your cornering, the last mode will be unlocked, and it's absolutely insane. Formula TNT is so fast Fernando Alonso would struggle to keep up with the action. It's incredible how the game can ramp up to this level of speed and still be enjoyable. Coming out on top in these races is ridiculously difficult to accomplish, especially on tracks that throw in tight turns with no barriers, but it makes you want to play on until you've mastered it. Formula TNT makes Turbo Mode look like four lethargic snails pottering about a track throwing beach balls at one another. It is the very definition of challenge.
There are also a few tournaments to play through, which essentially play out like grand prixs. A selection of races bundled together in cups of varying difficulty. This is a welcome addition to challenge mode and boosts the longevity of the game a bit further.
Everything, from the cars to the tracks, need unlocking, but it won't take you long as simply playing races is the prerequisite. While it may frustrate some to see everything get unlocked so easily, considering this is a download title, it's good that you can get access to all the content sooner rather than later. One thing that is worth noting is the save data, which saves onto your hard-drive, meaning all Nintendo Network ID profiles on the system will have the same content no matter who unlocks it.
One returning mode that went down particularly well in the previous outing was Shadow Mode, which sees your car reappear as a ghost when you’re eliminated. This not only serves as a boredom destroying feature, as sitting there watching everyone else drive around is not much fun, but also allows you to impact the race with various weapons. You can pick up Speed Disruptors and Earthquake Hammers and generally cause havoc. The Disruptor is by far the best and worst at the same time, depending on which side you’re on. It essentially acts as a tractor beam and draws other cars towards you, meaning you can strategically pull someone off the course. Having a player drag you off the track is so aggravating and yet is so very satisfying when you’re the one doing the disrupting.
All of this can be taken off-TV should you choose to and the game looks glorious on the GamePad and suits it so well. While the big screen is the best way to play it’s nice to look at the action being mirrored on the controller as well, although of course off-TV play is reserved for single player only — unless having three other people sat on your shoulders is your idea of a good time.
As you’d expect, multiplayer is an absolute blast and is what will keep you coming back once all the challenges are done — though it should be said you will spend a fair few hours driving through all 75 of them and there is a good bit of replayabilty in tournament mode too.
Multiplayer sees player one utilise the GamePad, which works brilliantly as a controller, allowing you to accelerate with ZR as well as A, while the others have the choice of a Pro Controller, Wii Remote, or Wii Remote and Nunchuk. All of which work well, though the Wii Remote on its own is a little less adaptable without its Nunchuk pal.
The race modes are all the same, though time attack is obviously missing, and you can set the parameters yourself thanks to custom mode. The possibilities are pretty much endless, you can remove all weapons, choose the weather conditions, the AI difficulty and of course the winning criteria. You can even set the length of the race to up to an hour if you fancy an absolute marathon.
Multiplayer is likely the place where you'll get the most enjoyment, as playing with others is a treat; if you thought throwing a blue shell at someone in Mario Kart was fun wait until you drag them off the track with a Speed Disruptor in Shadow Mode. Friendships will be put to the test.
While TNT Racers on WiiWare had online multiplayer, only local multiplayer is supported in the Wii U edition. This is disappointing, but in truth it’s hard to say that online would be more fun than local as having people in the same room is definitely the best option out of the two. Having said that, not everyone has friends at their beck and call at all times, so having no online multiplayer will be a homing Space Rocket to the hearts of many.
TNT Racers: Nitro Machines Edition is one of the most chaotic racing games out there. Its vibrant appearance may make it look like a drive in the park but this is actually one of the most challenging titles available in the Wii U eShop. The lack of online multiplayer may put people off, but the single player content provides a large variety of races and challenges that gives the game a large tank of fuel, while the local multiplayer presents enough reason to round up a few eager racers for some expletive-inducing fun. With a combination of high speeds and chaotic action, TNT Racers: Nitro Machines Edition is an enjoyable experience that will push your driving skills to the limit.