75 levels that are always imaginative, never repetitive; rewarding; creative powerups; fun multiplayer
Lots of trial and error needed; odd difficulty curve
Every once in a while, you will encounter a downloadable game that has all the makings of a traditional title; one that you would find neatly packaged in a colorful box at your local video game brick-and-mortar outlet. More often than not, this same game is accompanied by numerous television commercials and targeted advertisements touting its brilliance. MotoHeroz is one such title. Although it was released on WiiWare with little fanfare, it is far and away better than most games published through traditional channels.
MotoHeroz comes to us from RedLynx Ltd. of Trials HD fame. Though I’ve never played Trials, I hear great things about it from my Xbox brethren. Evidently, this Ubisoft subsidiary has a rich experience developing quality software across multiple platforms (mostly of the digital and portable variety) and their latest WiiWare racing game does not disappoint. Actually, MotoHeroz is not so much a racing game as it is a game of skill and finesse. Simply trying to gun it through a level will only result in a mediocre placing at best. To do well in this game requires a deliberate mastery of momentum and inertia. MotoHeroz borrows many elements from the Excitebike franchise in that maintaining and/or maximizing your speed can only be achieved by landing your vehicle perfectly parallel to the ground. As a downloadable title, the game is remarkably robust. There is a single-player story mode, an online mode, and a local multiplayer ‘party’ mode. Upgraded vehicles may be purchased by collecting virtual coins as you progress through the single-player levels. There’s also an add-on section for downloading additional content from the interwebs (although, this feature was not working at the time of this review).
While many will take pleasure owning their friends and family in the party mode– where up to four players compete to be first to navigate their buggy through various obstacles to the finish line– the Story Adventure contains several hours of creatively designed levels to conquer. Picture a platformer in the vein of classic Sonic the Hedgehog with floaty, physics-based vehicles and obstacles. As you progress through the game, you can collect coins to purchase upgrades and power-ups to temporarily enhance your vehicle’s capabilities and defenses, or upgrades that permit your vehicle to perform special functions.
Ghosts: Allows the player to pass through another player
Spring: Permits your vehicle to make high jumps
Boost: Temporarily gives you a dramatic increase in speed
Beetle: Quickly places a racer that is ahead of you behind you
Sticky Tires: Gives your buggy the capability to stick to walls
Parachute: Used for controlled landings
Shockwave: Destroys destructible elements in the environment
Jetpack: Used for temporary flight
In addition to the power-ups, your vehicle may also be upgraded with an underwater propeller and a Sky Rotor to enable sustained flight. While all of these items are terrifically imagined, they cannot be combined and are only targeted for specific levels.
You will also find the ancient spirits of your ancestors dispersed throughout various levels in the game. These special entities can be collected and viewed from the Spirit Gallery accessible from the menu. Once you complete a level, you are rewarded with a medal. Higher medals can be achieved by besting your previous records.
Overall, the level design in MotoHeroz is very imaginative. Of course it contains the requisite jungle, desert and ice levels that are a staple in every modern platform game known to man. Having said that, there is enough variety to keep things fresh. The graphics in this game are also above par for a digital download. Throughout the 75 or so levels, I was never overcome with déjà vu. One prominent feeling however was frustration. This game requires a lot of trial and error. A lot. So, make sure you strap on your WiiMote to deter you from casting it across the room. By the way, the game is played with the WiiMote held in the horizontal position. The cross-pad is used for leaning your vehicle to and fro, while the 1 button is used for reverse and the 2 button is used for forward acceleration. To utilize power ups, a quick tap of the A button is all that’s necessary. One button that you will become very familiar with is the – button, which is used for quickly restarting a level. As I stated earlier, pulling off a perfect landing will allow you to maintain your momentum. Unfortunately, landing on an uphill incline will negate your hard earned efforts. It’s also very important to be able to quickly recover your vehicle by either shaking the WiiMote or using creative tumbling by leaning and tapping forward or reverse as applicable.
RedLynx Ltd.’s art direction continually amazed us– and inspired us to race on and on.
Most of the levels in the game follow a familiar pattern of objectives. You will either be racing a ghost, racing one or three of the fictional characters from the game, playing cat and mouse with a deadly foe, or performing an escort mission where you have to carry items from the start of a level through the finish line. The ghosts in the game are helpful in that they give you clues on how to navigate through some of the more difficult spots in a level. Beware that ghosts do not always show you the most efficient way to traverse a level. Also, once you beat a ghost, it will be replaced by the ghost of your best time.
In conclusion, MotoHeroz is one of the best WiiWare Wii games available. While frustrating at times, finally making your way through a difficult level feels very rewarding. I was slightly disappointed that this game didn’t have a discernible gradual build in difficulty. Some of the latter levels seemed extremely easy to traverse, while some of the earlier levels needed some “quality time”; still others seemed downright impossible. (The level right before the finish line comes to mind.) One other thing that I found myself yearning for was analog acceleration. I’m not sure if this would throw off the balance of the game, but it was sorely missed. Lastly, while the sound effects were good, the quality of the music was passable at best. Not enough to distract, but nothing to write home about either. Overall though, this is one fine WiiWare title and well worth the 1500 point price for admission.