ExciteBots: Trick Racing is the newest entry in the beloved racing series that dates back to the original NES, and the second Excite title on the Wii. While the NES and N64 versions had you racing bikes and the first Wii title put you in trucks, ExciteBot's vehicles are all robot/vehicle/animal hybrids which should give you an indication of where the series is going.
The game is played with the Wiimote held horizontally, or placed in the steering wheel shell. Unlike Mario Kart Wii, there is no option to play with analog controls - either via the Wiimote/nunchuk setup or the classic controller - but the reasons why are evident as soon as you start your first race.
ExciteBots takes the arcade racing style of its predecessors to new extremes. While placing in a race can often determine success, the position you finish takes a back seat to the amount of stars you accrue. Each course has a set target you have to meet to pass, and you net these stars by drifting, boosting, catching air, performing tricks and successfully completing small on-track tasks.
The most common of these are the red bars. Your bot will grapple on to one of these and you have to move the controller in a circular motion in time with your swinging bot to get a boost. The red bar is the easiest and least fun - there are soccer balls to ram into goals, darts to throw at dart boards, pies to throw at disembodied clown faces, and even gliding sections where you collect butterflies that you later escort to a giant sunflower.
Gran Turismo this is not.
As well as the main racing mode, for which there are five different cups comprised of several courses a piece, there is also an interesting poker mode. You start with a hand of cards and as you race around the track, you can pick up and swap cards to form hands. To earn stars, you have to play the best hand possible.
Although I am yet to try the multiplayer modes, the game offers both local and Nintendo WFC play, and multiplayer is where a title like this usually shines. For the lone player, however, the game also features the now-obligatory unlockables. As well as several additional vehicles, you can unlock trophies, dioramas and icons (used to represent your saved game).
I wasn't a fan of Excite Trucks as I felt its handling took a very obvious back seat to speed. ExciteBots really does little to remedy that - in fact, it is often impossible to drive in a straight line for more than two seconds as you are shaking, rotating or twisting the wheel to perform tricks. It can get a little overwhelming at times. Fortunately, with so many other ways to earn stars, it is still possible to progress without being the best driver.