The original Excitebike was one of the best games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, so it's somewhat surprising that Nintendo hasn't gone back to the well that many times over the years. Beyond the well-received Excitebike 64 for the Nintendo 64, Nintendo just hasn't done much with the Excitebike series. That looks to change with the upcoming Excitebike: World Rally, which will be available on Nintendo's WiiWare channel on November 9.
If you've played the original, the formula in Excitebike: World Rally should be very familiar. You play as a nameless motocross rider who tackles a series of off-road races filled with jumps, obstacles, and your fellow riders. In true Excitebike fashion, racing is straight ahead with no turns (though you can change lanes to avoid obstacles or hit jumps and power-ups). Your speed is regulated not just by mashing the gas on your controller, but also by how well you negotiate your landings after taking off on a jump; if you nail the landing perfectly, you'll get a quick burst of speed as you go. Hitting an obstacle (or another rider) will cause you to briefly crash, and you can recover by shaking the Wii Remote. There's also the issue of keeping your engine cool--rev it too hard for too long and you'll break down. Driving over illuminated arrows on the course will give you an instant cooldown and allow you to get back on the turbo button.
There are two control schemes in World Rally and both have you holding the Wii Remote horizontally. The classic control scheme uses the D pad to change lanes and your rider's position midair; the 2 button acts as gas while the 1 button provides a turbo boost. The new control scheme lets you tilt the Wii Remote left or right in order to control your rider's position midair and is surprisingly sensitive and effective.
We played the Bronze cup races in World Rally, which is one of several series in the game. The series included such locales as London and Canada with different challenges at each track. Unlike the 2D original, World Rally plays at an angled, 2.5 D perspective, giving you a slightly better look at what's coming up ahead of you on the track. The game will also support online play via the Wii's Wi-Fi capability and includes a track designer where you can control every aspect of your track using a variety of preset jumps and obstacles. You can test your track either from the beginning of the track or at specific points along the way.
The game moves at a quick pace--so quick, in fact, that it's easy to run in to other riders even with the new angled camera. But with a little practice (and a little luck) at each track, you should be able to earn a trophy. World Rally doesn't seem to be pushing the Excitebike franchise very far, but the essential fun of fast bikes and huge jumps remains.