Review by TomorrowDog

"Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one."

Being part of the "no gaaaaaamez" party regarding the Wii's current state, I was pleased when this charming looking title snuck up on me. A trailer showed wild but simple and accessible physics based racing, touting great multiplayer and lots to do. Sounds great, but finding information on the title was impossible. I was left with the dilemma of reverting to the days of my youth when I'd buy games off of only what shady marketing teams told me. But hey, it's just $15 for the game, might as well try it. The good news is that the game is fun and worthwhile. Bad news is that it isn't quite the complete package some might expect at that price.

For videogame dinosaurs, Motoheroz'z basic gameplay will instantly remind them of the classic formula seen in Excitebike on the NES. Unlike its old cousin, though, MotoHeroz strives to be an accessible experience that doesn't force players to endure hours of wrecks and failures. Driving well pays off nicely, but messing up a jump or landing doesn't result in a grisly wreck but rather your car tumbling about in humorous fashion. In this way it isn't such a "hardcore" experience, though there is still plenty of challenge. It just doesn't kill the fun for those people not as skilled at playing it.

The level design starts off simply enough with hills and ramps that encourage intelligent acceleration. Flying over that hill at full speed is fun but if it makes you land on another incline it isn't the optimal tactic. These basics are fun enough on their own, but the game quickly ramps up the action with wild path-splitting levels that at times feel like classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. There are lots of loop-de-loops, long jumps, steep drops off. You'll drive up walls and across ceilings before being launched upside down and having to re-orient the car to land and keep momentum. The traction and propulsion mechanics of the gameplay are explored and used in a huge variety of ways, and each stage throws out a new challenge for your reflexes. The controls are also simple and rock solid. Using the wiimote only, one button accelerates to the left and another to the right while the d-pad is used to shift the weight of the vehicle and orient it in mid-air so as to get the optimal landing. And that is about it. They also spared a button for quick restarting a level, a very nice addition for when trying to earn medals.

Medals are earned by racing ghosts, which is the focus of this game as it turns out. Every course in the single player has an especially difficult ghost that gives a gold medal, but also has coins and collectibles hidden behind tricky jumps or secret areas to promote exploration. Given the large number of tracks (dozens of them), it is kind of impressive to find so many of them hiding pleasant surprises. And the point of doing all of these tasks is unlocking more cars - a decent-sized 14 in total.

Unfortunately, you can't actually use different cars in single player. You have to head to the other modes and that is where the game runs in to a bit of trouble. There is a local multiplayer mode for 2-4 players which is, again, fun as hell. Think New Super Mario Bros Wii with cars. So long as completing the track is kept as a secondary concern (next to ramming or running over your friends and messing up their jumps, because they will surely do the same to you) there is lots of fun to be had. Options are very light though, there are no AI opponents that can be added and you essentially just choose from a long list of description-less tracks and make a cup out of them. The interface here is also poor, the car selection screen doesn't show stats and track selection is pointlessly messy. It is also in need of a victory screen, it feels kind of shallow when the same quick score screen saying "Final Score" in small letters displays before you quickly flash back to the main menu.

Online is the biggest disappointment. There is no multiplayer online, it is all uploading ghosts. The game boasts "daily challenges", which sounds pretty cool. Thing is, they are seemingly just shuffling through the single player stages and arbitrarily making it so players can only put up their time on those stages during a short ~24 hour period. To put this in perspective, it would be like taking Mario Kart's ghost upload feature and only letting you do a couple courses at any one time. What purpose does this serve? It is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors to cover up a lack of things to do.

So finding out the content is actually somewhat deceptively light, it might make the premium price tag of $15 a bit harder to swallow. But I'd rather pay a bit much for a good game than buy a bad game. Being Wiiware, the production values are fairly decent. In-game visuals are pretty colorful, and there is plenty of variety in the settings and just enough in the textures. Car designs are fairly bland though, and that goes double for the character designs. They are just flat, generic, uninteresting, and despite the developers efforts they never have anything funny to say. The music can be quite lively and catching. It fits the mood of the game, though some of the tracks seem to loop pretty fast.

All-in-all, MotoHeroz has trouble shaking that feeling that it could just be a flash game, so a gamer obsessed with the "value" of a game might be turned off by this deal. But the single player mode doesn't skimp on things to do and the multiplayer and online are nice things to have when you consider they could just not be there. The problem seems to be that the game itself knows it doesn't quite meet the expectations many have of a $15 downloadable title, so it ends up with tacked on content trying to pass as a full package. The fun is pure and lasting, however, so it is hard not to give it a recommendation.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/22/11

Game Release: MotoHeroz (US, 09/15/11)


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