Welcome backflip to Excitebike.
I'm the kind of person that gets completely nostalgic when it comes to ExciteBike. It was one of the first games I ever owned and played on my NES, and it holds a place in my heart as one my all-time favorites. In retrospect, ExciteBike hasn't been in suspended animation for too long in Nintendo's long line of discontinued franchises. In 2001, LeftField, one of Nintendo's second parties, released a "polygonized" re-imagining on the Nintendo 64 that was a great dirt bike game in its own right. But it didn't really feel like ExciteBike per se, other than a few throwbacks and the inclusion of the original. Before that, we got a limited released "pseudo-sequel" on SNES called BS ExciteBike Mario. Also not to mention retail Wii games like ExciteTruck and ExciteBots, which borrow not only the name, but also the style of play from ExciteBike.
[image1]The Wii has been the console for nostalgic players from the get-go, with both the Virtual Console and WiiWare, offering countless re-releases and remakes of some of the best games from Nintendo's heyday, like Megaman, Contra, A Boy and His Blob, to name a few. Excitebike: World Rally treads on the same familiar road, but it adds enough hooks to make it worth a look for newcomers, while retaining the feel of the original for us nostalgic fools.
Keeping with the original, though it takes the polygonal route, World Rally is a two-dimensional racer where you can freely change between the four lanes on the scrolling track. Opponents randomly block your way, but can be dodged or defeated by touching their front wheel with your own back wheel, just like the original. The same can happen to you if you are closed off, but this time, by popping a wheelie, you can bounce off opponents' heads and gain some ground.
Other than accelerating and turbo-boosting, you can adjust the pitch of your bike in two different ways depending on the control option you pick. Classic doesn't disappoint its name, mimicking the original game's control option, Wii remote sideways-style, with pitch control going to the D-pad. The "improved" option takes limited advantage of the Wii remote's motion capabilities by letting you control the bike's pitch by tilting the remote.
[image2]Sadly, the motion controls are limited to just that function, as changing lanes still has you press up or down on the D-pad, which becomes confusing sometimes thanks to how the game handles the control options for the camera. Instead of offering you a choice between the classic side-view or slightly angled view, the choice is made for you when you pick the control style. In fact, unlike many other Wii games, it would have been much better if it had gone the full waggle way for controlling your bike.
Taking a cue from the Nintendo 64 iteration of the series, perfectly landed and stylishly executed jumps are rewarded by speed boosts, making World Rally a lot more dynamic and friendlier. You can expect to find a fair amount of challenge as you tackle the game's single-player mode, in four tiers of four race segments that go around the world, or rather such a limited idea of the globe that it practically begs us to send the developers a world map.
Opponents are aggressive, tending to cut into your lane and screwing your race up if you are not careful or aggressive yourself. There's a fair bit of incentive for doing well in this mode, in the form of special selections for bike colors awarded for perfect runs through these segments, which is no easy task. While it isn't a hugely creative list of rewards, it does provide a fair bit of replay in an overall short single player mode. There's also a strong level constructor, which saves levels to your Wii's internal memory so you can share them with friends. It's a welcome addition considering the original game had a similar tool with the fatal flaw of not letting you save your work.
[image3]Online is the place to be in World Rally, and there's a fairly hefty set of choices, in comparison to other Wii offerings. You can choose to race against friends registered in your friends code list orrace anyone. Up to four players are placed in a lobby, with races taking place continuously as long as there are people in it. By gathering points earned by racing, more rewards become available.
Online races are mostly lag-free and exciting as all hell. Shockingly absent, though, is a split-screen mode for local multiplayer, which is a given for most Wii games. This omission is one of the only gripes party players will have with this otherwise incredibly fun game.
Nintendo knew exactly which nostalgia bone to hit with ExciteBike: World Rally. It's a 1,000 Wii Points joyride for the crowd who was around to enjoy the original game, adding new tidbits of gameplay that make it worth picking up, but it's also for new dirt-riders too. Not including local multiplayer might seem like a yellow flag to some, but the strong online component is sure to give the game legs if past Nintendo racers like Mario Kart DS are any indication.