Genre: Motorcycle Racing
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Remember the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality? You know, the one they used to stick on games back in the day, when third-party titles that appeared on their systems actually had some standards to meet before being released? Yeah, they need to bring that back, before the market gets flooded with crap. Oops, too late.
There are some great Wii games out there, but Nitrobike is not one of them. Within the first twenty minutes of gameplay I was confused, frustrated, cursing, and tossing controllers around the office. Originally I thought that this game might be the current generation’s ExciteBike, and I was actually kind of looking forward to playing it. I’m not a racing game junkie, but they usually offer at least a few hours of fun. This one? Not so much.
Honestly, I don’t understand how they screwed this one up so badly. All they had to do was take the Excite Truck formula and apply it to bikes. The controls resemble Excite Truck’s, with the Wii remote turned sideways to mimic a steering wheel, but somehow it all goes wrong. Turn the remote slightly, and your biker won’t turn at all and crash into a giant Ubisoft sign. Turn it too much, and he’ll fly off course, never to return. The controls are just too clumsy to ever want to spend a lot of time with.
You start off with almost no choices in characters or bikes, and you can’t unlock any more (or more courses) until you successfully complete the first round. In my entire life, I have never played a racing game of any kind and not been able to place in the first race. Nitrobike’s controls are so wonky, and the courses so ridiculous, that I had to run the same course about five times before getting a gold medal. I came close before that, but somehow managed to crash into another Ubisoft sign (they appear about every ten feet, and this one was directly in front of the finish line), and the resulting explosion took me out of the running.
Oh, you’ll explode, all right. Sometimes it’s because you’ve overused your nitro power, in which case a quick “Danger!” message will appear before you go up in flames. Other times, you blow up when you crash into something, and sometimes it’s just a random freak accident that causes you to detonate. I don’t know.
As for the graphics, they look fantastic… for a Nintendo 64 game. Seriously, when are more game designers actually going to take advantage of the Wii’s potential? It actually is capable of a lot more than we’ve been getting, but no one seems to care enough to try. The track design is lackluster at best, and doesn’t mesh well at all with the bike controls and style. You’re supposed to go fast, but every time you try there’s a sign, or a wall, or an ATV that looks like a bush from far away that you crash into and explode.
With mediocre gameplay, even worse graphics, an annoying soundtrack, and almost no incentive to play for more than twenty minutes, this game doesn’t even warrant a rental. If you have a Wii and are dying for a good bike-racing game, just download ExciteBike from the Virtual Console instead. It’s much more worthy of your time and money.