From the makers of 2009's insane motorcycle-flipping spectacle Trials HD comes even more insanity, only this time we're flipping four-wheeled buggies instead of two-wheeled bikes. MotoHeroz is a crazy, kooky-looking, physics-based, half-racing/half-platforming blast of a game -- the kind of follow-up that would feel perfectly positioned on Xbox Live Arcade right alongside its spiritual predecessor. The thing is, this one's only available on Wii.
Only available on WiiWare, to be specific, as developer RedLynx is distributing this great product exclusively through Nintendo's otherwise almost entirely forgotten digital download shop. The price is set at a premium -- 15 bucks, the same amount only previously demanded by World of Goo. This is a pretty bold move. Goo, after all, has repeatedly been named the best WiiWare download of all and has earned the right to demand a little something extra.
MotoHeroz, though, is more than capable of competing on that same level. This title is packed with features, extra content, a great presentation, stunning music . . . in short, it's good. So let's take a closer look under the hood.
Gene McQuick is the name of the newest rookie to challenge the worldwide racing tournament being held across the globe of the planet Gema. Under your command he'll have to speed his way through dozens of different courses, each of them filled with wild obstacles like huge leaps, loop-de-loops, breakaway bridges and even sci-fi teleporters. Along the way he'll also have to collect coins, post faster times than ghostly competitors and real-world rivals and even commune with the spirits of his long-lost ancestors. Spooky!
The mechanics of MotoHeroz are introduced to us as Gene is learning the ropes himself. The basics to master are your speed and your angle relative to the ground. Just as in Trials HD (or even going back as far as Nintendo's first Excitebike), you'll find yourself frequently flying through the air and must match the angle of your wheels with the surface you're about to land on in order to maintain momentum.
Succeed and your speed is preserved, ensuring continued fast progress toward the goal. Fail and you may find Gene flailing helplessly upside-down on the ground (and you'll have to shake the Wii Remote to flip him back over and try again).
The physics are handled beautifully, as RedLynx has clearly brought a practiced knowledge into the programming of MotoHeroz's many bouncing buggies. But, as with any game boasting realistic physics, the reality of it all can sometimes get the best of you.
Just the slightest error can make the difference between victory and defeat in MotoHeroz. Because the physics are so precise, they're sometimes unforgiving -- meaning if you don't clear a jump just right you'll fall backwards, Gene will topple over himself and you'll probably have to restart the level.
What's more, sometimes the cars seem to just flip out of control at entirely arbitrary times -- which, again, can lead you to just being slightly off for your next landing, forcing another failure upon you. When you've seen Gene land on his face 10, 15 or 20 times in a row while your ghost-racer competitor happily speeds along without incident, things get frustrating.
Luckily that issue is really the only one MotoHeroz has, and it can be overcome with patience and practice. You'll come to understand (the hard way) that just hammering on the accelerator won't get you to the goal here. It takes a lighter touch. Small adjustments. Subtle shifts in speed.
And all that's just dealing with your default car taking on the environment. MotoHeroz ups the ante quickly to include other complicated elements to take into account, too, like collectible power-up items -- things like nitro boosts to propel your ride up otherwise too-steep hills, springs to trigger on-the-spot jumps and even sticky tires that let your buggy become a temporary Spider-Man across any surface. The single-player challenge ends up being a varied and satisfying romp with solid replay value and a lot of fun (after you get past that physics-system learning curve).
The real meat of MotoHeroz comes in its multiplayer, though. Flipping out with one buggy on the screen seems tame once you've jumped into the four-way race mode here, as everyone takes up their own Remote and commands their own car simultaneously in the stage. The physics are still active and accurate, so you're constantly colliding with, bouncing off of and just driving straight over your friends in a mad dash to the end point.
It's hilarious fun, a pure and very Nintendo-like good time. One of Rich's comments from his hands-on time with this game back at GDC this year was that if he didn't know better, he would have thought this game came straight from the Big N, and I agree wholeheartedly. There's that special, intangible "something" that you feel when you're playing a great first-party multiplayer game from Nintendo, and MotoHeroz somehow manages to tap into that magic.
The rest of the package is incredibly robust as well. There are daily online challenges that RedLynx is rotating through -- seriously, every day there's something different -- and there are leaderboards keeping track of both worldwide best times and the fastest finishes put up by your own friends. There are extra cars to buy and use that each have different ratings for grip, weight and handling that all look great.
There's even available DLC called the "MotoHeroz Party Pack" that expands everything even further. You'll have to invest some more cash to get it, which is never anyone's favorite thing to do, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the game. For your initial investment of 1500 Wii Points, the experience feels very complete even without the extra purchase.
Go ahead and believe the hype -- MotoHeroz is sensational. It's got a premium-level price tag and its learning curve will cause you some headaches once you get going, but if you can get past those two obstacles this is one of the best downloads WiiWare's ever seen. Who would have thought the nearly-defunct Wii Shop could still deliver something so great?
IGN Ratings for MotoHeroz (Wii)