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Critical Reception: Nintendo/Monster Games'  Excitebots: Trick Racing

Critical Reception: Nintendo/Monster Games' Excitebots: Trick Racing

April 29, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

April 29, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Monster Games' Excite Truck sequel Excitebots: Trick Racing for Wii, which reviews describe as "an engaging, exciting blast." Excitebots currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

IGN's Matt Casamassina rates Excitebots at 8.4 out of 10. "It's been nearly three years since Nintendo released the Monster Games-developed Excite Truck for Wii and in so doing surprised racing fans with a compelling, if not thrilling title that took the neglected franchise into a new high-flying direction," he says.

"So what has the development studio that crafted that experience been up to since then?" Casamassina asks. "Well, another 'Excite' game, but it doesn't feature trucks or bikes this time around. Rather, you control animal-like robots, which can transform shapes on the fly when necessary, around a series of over-the-top courses."

The result is a solid racing title boosted by a bizarre premise. "The experience is still blazing fast," Casamassina praises. "The controls are tighter than before. There's all sorts of new mechanics and modes. And Excitebots Trick Racing is so wonderfully surreal that you can't help but appreciate Monster Games' unabashed roadblock to realism."

"Excitebots Trick Racing is a great racing experience that I sincerely hope gets more attention and recognition than Excite Truck ever did," Casamassina concludes. "Monster Games' previous effort was fantastic, but this unofficial sequel is better in just about every regard."

Chris Watters at GameSpot gives Excitebots a score of 8 out of 10. "To get an idea of how much better Excitebots: Trick Racing is than its predecessor, Excite Truck, think about them in terms of children's toys," he begins. "Trucks are good, wholesome fun, but there's only so much an active imagination can do with them. On the other hand, transforming robot cars are creative and complex on a whole different level. So it is with Excitebots."

Watters finds that transforming robots mesh well with Excite Truck's trick-based gameplay. "The animal bots are the stars of the show here," he writes. "Frogs jostle with bats for control of the track, and ladybugs try to outpace grasshoppers. Each robo-creature has a few different attributes that indicate, for example, how long its turbo lasts or how well it grips around turns. The bots are fairly balanced, so though the turtle can easily pull off sweet drifts, the lightweight mouse can clear certain obstacles more quickly."

Watters assures that Excitebots' controls are up to the challenge. "The controls are well suited to the fast-paced, high-flying racing," he says. "They aren't so sensitive that you can always take the optimal line around turns, but they are responsive enough to make you feel in control as you rush along the track while trying to get as many stars as you can."

Excitebots' online play is also fun, despite occasional issues. "Excitebots has online features, a welcome addition after the local-only action of Excite Truck," Watters writes. "Of course, the most robust option is the six-player online races. These are exciting, lag-free affairs that pit you against a menagerie of human-controlled bots as you race for honor and stars. The only connectivity drawback is that you might end up joining a lobby while a race is in session and have to wait until it is over, but races are short enough that this isn't too onerous."

"Though the actual racing is fairly simplistic on its own, the huge amount of wacky stuff thrown into each race more than makes up for it," Watters explains. "Excitebots is always challenging you to race faster, perform more stunts, and nail more minigames, and it constantly rewards your efforts with a stream of stars. The generous rewards and the sheer fun of racing make Excitebots an engaging, exciting blast."

Over at GamePro, Dave Rudden scores Excitebots at 3.5 out of 5 stars. "I get the feeling playing Excitebots: Trick Racing that the word 'no' was never uttered during a feature pitch meeting," he writes. "Anthropomorphous bugs and animals that can race, run, and fly? In-race minigames dedicated to making sandwiches, collecting butterflies, throwing pies, and kicking field goals? An entire mode dedicated to a racing-poker hybrid? All of these concepts had to be pitched, and none of them were rejected."

"It makes for one of the unique games I've ever played," Rudden continues, "and it certainly keeps the races from getting boring."

Rudden finds that some game modes aren't as fun as others, however. "Poker Race consists of collecting different poker hands by gathering cards scattered about the course, earning more stars for better hands," he describes. "It's a very interesting (and bizarre) concept that ultimately fails due to the speed of the game betraying the more methodical nature of poker. I have a hard enough time determining what cards I need when one is doled out every 30 seconds, much less having to choose from five when they're rapidly approaching."

"The minigames fare much better in execution," Rudden says. "If one of the many in-race oddities tickles your fancy, you can try your luck at events that consist of nothing but one particular minigame. Whether you're flipping from bars like a gymnast made of steel, grease, and wheels, or tossing darts at a multitude of targets while blasting by them at high speeds, most of the minigames serve as suitable distractions should the main game get too hectic."

Excitebots may be inconsistent in places, but Rudden finds that the experience on the whole is worthwhile. "It tries everything, and is maybe a bit too crazy for its own good, but it's definitely unforgettable," he notes in conclusion. "Your mileage will vary in accordance with your sanity."


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