The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: Excitebots Trick Racing Nintendo Wii Game

excitebotsThough it launched on May 20th, we’ve been so busy playing the new game for the Wii called Excitebots: Trick Racing that we’ve had no time until now to write a review. Like MarioKart, Excitebots is a fun racing game played with an optional wheel controller. Excitebots is a lot different from other racers we own however.

First off, you’re not racing cars. Oh no, with a name like Excitebots, cars just wouldn’t do. You have your choice of a variety of giant robotic insects and similar creatures. Yup, you’re in complete control of things like a speeding metal lady bug, laying waste to all that oppose your polka-dotted fury.

Then come the tricks. In this game, finishing first is not the primary objective. As you tear around the outdoors in your grasshopper of destruction, you score points for a variety of crazy maneuvers. These are as simple as crashing into other bots or jumping hundreds of feet through the air, to flipping around bars with retractable arms and shaking a tambourine. Yes, I said shaking a tambourine.

On the tracks are special gifts you can unwrap. Inside are a variety of surprises that either help you gain an edge in the race or unlock an on-track mini game right in front of you. These include sports-related actions like knocking a soccer ball into a goal to the downright scary like throwing a pie into a freaky clown face. As silly as this all sounds, all of it is incredibly fun and satisfying (at least for a while).

The other major feature that makes this game fun is the sense of speed. When you hit your turbo, the world around your flying centipede literally becomes a blur. The developers have done a great job of using this technique to give you a real feeling of incredible speed without blasting your robo-spider forward so fast it’s uncontrollable. In fact, the game is very forgiving when you make mistakes. This is great for kids who are easily frustrated. Jump wrong off a cliff and heading towards a forest? Your bot can easily be steered back on course mid-air. Even when things go terribly wrong and your hummingbird of terror smashing into a million pieces, the game goes into slow mo and if you shake your wheel you are reassembled, put back on the track, and you get an extra speed boost to help you catch up.

At the core, all these tricks earn you stars. The more stars, the more tournaments you unlock. In addition, you can use stars to purchase new bots. Each bots is good at certain things, so it’s not just a change in looks when switching between a beetle and a bat. You can also buy new colors for your bots, which I didn’t find much value in. Do well enough and you’ll unlock a special outfit for your bot. I did find it amusing to race around in a mechanized insect wearing a top hat, but I’m not sure it worth more than a chuckle.

In order to add to the replay value, they’ve included several mini-games as well as the option to race online against players around the world. Unlike MarioKart where you get new challenges delivered all the time, the tracks and challenges will get repetitive after playing over and over.

All in all, the kids found it was high on fun and relatively low on frustration. Their interest did wane after a while, but they still get a kick over that lady bug.

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99 (with Wii Wheel) & $36.99 (without Wii Wheel)

Website for More Details: Excitebot: Trick Racing

Pikmin Wii Game

pikminWe had the chance to review a rather interesting new game for the Wii called Pikmin recently. It’s a remake of a game that came out way back in 2001, so if your kids played that one, there’s not a lot different for them this time around.

The concept is simple: A little guy has crash landed on a planet and the parts of his ship are scattered everywhere. He’s about 2 inches high, so it’s not like he can just walk over and pick up the pieces. The environment is like something out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where a small rock is a mountain of an obstacle and simple bugs are monsters.

Luckily, you quickly find help in your quest, and it’s what this game is all about. There’s these little seed creatures that apparently think of you as their mother and will blindly follow you wherever you go. You direct them to create more creatures, tear down obstacles, and battle bugs on your hunt for parts of your ship. There are 3 different types that you can direct, each with their own capabilities and you have to figure out how to leverage them to gain access to different areas of the world.

The crux of the game is to figure out what needs to be done to find the next part of your ship. What makes that difficult is the time limit the game imposes on you. You have 30 game days to gather what you need before your air supply runs out and you apparently die some horrible death. Each day is about 15 minutes long, so you need to get whatever you plan on doing done in that amount of time.

This is what can make the game frustrating for kids who oftentimes just want to explore and have fun. If you really want to make progress, you’ll have to hit the ground running and solve puzzles as fast as you can. Otherwise, it will be impossible to complete it within the time given. If you do really screw up one of the days, you can go back to a previous day and try again, but it would have been nice if the game allowed more freedom for the kids just to do whatever they want. Furthermore, you don’t have much area to explore unless you do make progress, so you’ll get extremely tired of seeing the same blades of grass and flowers if you’re just looking to explore.

The kids did enjoy the fact how everything was giant and got a kick out of directing a mob of 100 creatures around (which really is fun for a while), but quickly grew frustrated when they couldn’t proceed past certain points in the time given. I think without the time limits, they would have been able to think about and try different tactics, but ever-present push to make progress all the time took some fun out of it. In the end, it’s a cute and unique concept, but younger kids will probably need assistance in the difficult parts or they’ll quickly abandon it.

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Website For More Details: Pikmin Wii Game

Mario Power Tennis

mario-power-tennisAs fans of tennis on Wii Sports, we were pretty excited about trying out Mario Power Tennis. In this game, you get to play as one of several classic Nintendo characters, each with their own specialty and moves. Some are good at smashing power shots, some are good and defense, some are good at trick shots. Depending on your style of play, there’s an alter-ego just for you.

The play is straightforward. You swing your Wii remote just like a racket  to hit the ball. How you swing affects what the ball does, just like in real tennis. You can hit short shots, soaring volleys, or put spin to try and trip up your opponent.

These normal hits aren’t why it’s called Mario Power Tennis. Every few hits you’ll have a chance to unless a Power hit unique to your character. You’ll be able to reach balls otherwise out of reach by employing a number of ridiculous tricks (think throwing your racket like a boomerang or using a vacuum). If the ball is close, you’ll unleash a more difficult return. The different moves certainly don’t make for a realistic experience, but do make it easier to win matches that would probably last a half hour otherwise.

There’s also a variety of courts to play on, from the standard grass and clay to those in haunted mansions or surrounded by lava. In normal matches or tournaments, they don’t make a whole lot of difference other than distracting you from your total domination of those that stand in your way. When you win tournaments, you unlock harder tournaments as well as new characters and power moves. There are disappointingly few new characters to win however, so there won’t be a lot of variety after a while. Like most games like this, there are various side challenges to complete that test your skills. These have various levels of difficulty, but the kids won’t have much trouble beating most of them in a day.

Overall, the concept is a fun one, but I think it would get repetitive after a while. As your character gets to perform a power move every 5 hits or so, you’ll be seeing the same cut scene over and over again. The controls don’t always register like they should and you’ll find a flick of the wrist is easier (and safer) than trying to replicate Agassi’s movements. On the harder levels you’ll find it very difficult to score and it would better if you had easier ways of hitting the ball away from your opponent instead of right to them.

Suggested Retail Price: $27.99

Website For More Details: Mario Power Tennis

Rockin’ It Out With Wii Music

When our copy of Wii Music arrived, we were a bit skeptical. Based on the summary, the game lets you play a bunch of virtual musical instruments by waving around your Wii remote and pressing buttons. I’ll be honest and say that did not sound very satisfying on paper. However, after countless jam sessions, hand bell performances, symphonies, and music video recording, I can tell you that this game is incredible.

Unlike most games, there is no set path and there is no right or wrong way to experience Wii Music. The game is more of a tool to allow your kids (and you) to understand music theory and foster their musical creativity. This is not done through the sadistic exercises that piano teacher from your childhood employed. Rather, the game introduces you to the basic mechanics of the various instruments and underlying concepts of music and sets you on your way.

You start with about two dozen different instruments to try. As you progress through the additional lessons, games, and challenges offered, you unlock more. This process is extremely satisfying because of not only the sheer number the game offers in total (a whopping 60!), but also their variety and humor. This is a fantastic way to introduce you children to instruments they would never have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Sure, there are the expected standards like a drum set, piano, violin, trumpet and guitar, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Ever played the djembe or taiko drums? Rocked out with a shamisen or sitar? Maybe strummed a dandy on the jaw harp? Neither had I until Wii Music. For some real laughs, you can “play” a dog or cat suit (your Mii barks or meows while dress in full costume), lay down some dope beats with your DJ turntables or beat-boxing, or just go nuts as a cheerleader yelling and shaking your pom-poms. There is enough variety here to keep your family smiling for hours.

Getting to the actual music, the main mode is the “jam sessions” where you can choose your role in the band (melody, percussion, bass, etc) and play your heart out to dozens of songs from the elementary “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to some pop and rock classics like “Mr. Postman” or “Material Girl”. Your kids are not scored, graded, or judged like other music games like Guitar Hero. They are free to play however they like, in whatever style they like. They don’t have to worry about the notes they play, as the game does a surprisingly intelligent job of deciding that for them. To get a great performance, it’s all about the timing, rhythm, and the gusto with which they play.

The lessons mode does a fantastic job of gradually teaching them more advanced concepts of musical theory. It demonstrates how you can play the same song in different styles and how the mood of a song can change from start to finish. This serves as a great teaching tool and make the game more engaging by enabling your kids to play the same songs it an endless variety of ways. You can see what I mean in this video:

There are other modes such as music videos, hand bell performances, music quizzes (another great teaching tool), and our favorite, conductor. Conductor allows you to take control over a symphony or choir who follow your lead through a number of rousing classical numbers. Depending on the speed and tempo of your movements, the musicians will play faster, slower, louder, or softer. This is one mode that does score you and leads to some great competition. If you conduct with robot-like precision, you will not get as high of a score as you might think. You are awarded for creativity and the personality you inject into the performance.

Words can only go so far in describing what playing Wii Music is like, so check out this video and then get your copy!

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Website For More Details: Wii Music (Amazon)