Infendo@GDC – Excitebots Hands-On!

ExciteTruck was one heck of a launch title for the Wii – it’s a fun, fast paced driving stunt game that was missed by far too many Wii owners.  It had great motion controls, more than decent graphics, and it was just fun to play.  For those who missed out it or for those who just want more, ExciteBots is just what the doctor ordered – it’s everything that made ExciteTruck great, plus a whole slew of crazy new additions.

It has to be recognized that on the surface, ExciteBots is very similar to it’s predecessor – the world looks the same, the tracks are similar, and many traits of the previous game still remain.  The motion controls have been fine tuned, and work even better than before – it’s naturally easy to pick up.  Also like the first game, there are boosts and bonuses that increases your speed and blur the surrounding area, and of course morphing terrain – just to keep things interesting.  The core of ExciteBots is still very much a solid racing game, but it’s what’s new that makes the difference.

Obviously, you aren’t just playing with trucks anymore – ExciteBots features a series of insect themed machines – morphing robots with destructive capacity!  This changes gameplay throughout the game – for one thing, you can acquire weapons to stall or temporarily stop your enemies, similar to Mario Kart.  The vehicles also morph and change – and change the controls scheme with it!  Some vehicles will sprout legs, requiring the player to rock the remote back and forth to piston the new appendages to ridiculously fast speeds – other vehicles might take flight, taking direction in altitude and and yaw by how the controller is tilted.  At one point the presenter showing off the title told me that as the game progress you start making sandwiches and fishing during a race – and he wasen’t joking!

In addition to the added humor and gameplay value, ExciteBots features a mode of multiplayer that, as far as I know, is a first on the Wii.  The Nintendo representative demoing the game told me that in addition to supporting split-screen multiplayer and Nintendo Wifi racing, ExciteBots could be played through a local Network between 2-6 Wii Consoles, each running their own copy of ExciteBots and outputting to their own individual TVs.   This kind of “Lan Party” concept is rare in console gaming in general, and virtually unheard of on the Wii.  When it was first introduced on the original Xbox, it was scoffed at for being too inconvenient – televisions were large and cumbersome to take to a friend’s house for some console linked multiplayer. These days however, many televisions are small lightweight flat-screens – and many computer monitors can accept A/V input.  Although this feature might not be used by many, it’s certainly a unique addition to the game.

Overall, I came away very pleased with my short time with ExciteBots.  It had everything I loved about it’s predecessor and added more than enough new content and new gameplay to keep me interested.  ExciteBots: Trick Racing will hit store shelves on April 20th, 2009.