With the exception of the Micro Machine games, there aren't a whole lot of top-down racers being released these days--but back in the day they were all the rage. Well, maybe not all the rage, but the games had their fans. One such blast from the past is Moto Roader, a top-down racer with a terrible name that was originally released on the TurboGrafix 16 and is now available for 600 points ($6) on the Wii's Virtual Console. While you might have fond memories of Moto Roader, it hasn't aged very well. These days, it makes for a shallow single-player experience, but if you've got at least one other person to play against, Moto Roader can still be a fun game.
Moto Roader has seven different circuits in which you're pitted against four other cars in a series of races. As with most games, the driver with the most points at the end of the series wins. After each race you're awarded some cash, which can be used to upgrade your tires, engine, body, brakes, and more. You can even purchase grenades, hoppers (which allow you to jump obstacles), nitro, and other special items.
The racing itself is simple. You navigate the winding courses, all the while trying to avoid obstacles and keep your car steady on the occasional random patches of ice. It can take some time to get a grip on the steering, though, since you've got to take into account the car's orientation before deciding whether or not pressing left on the D pad will make the car actually go the way you want it to. All of the racers have to be onscreen at the same time, and the game warps any car that is too far behind back up into the pack. Each time you're bumped up you lose gas, and when you're out of gas the race is over. Because you'll be teleported up with the rest of the racers, there's very little incentive to avoid obstacles. In fact, you can buy extra gas between races, watch the race as you get teleported around the track, and then pick up the controller on the final stretch and win the race.
Constantly having cars warp from place to place takes all the fun out of the racing and ruins the single-player mode. However, the game is much more enjoyable when played with five people. The Wii only supports four remotes at once, so you'll need at least one GameCube controller to play with five people, but the game is much more exciting this way. The races are more intense, launching grenades at your buddies is a blast, and you actually need a bit of skill to win races.
Moto Roader sure isn't much to look at. The courses are bland and devoid of interesting scenery, and the sense of speed is nonexistent. The cars look decent, though, and they're very colorful, which is really cool if you like colorful cars. Perhaps in an effort to get you enjoy the graphics more, the audio is terrible. The sound effects are lousy, and the music is just as bad.
If you're thinking of picking up Moto Roader, you simply need to ask yourself two questions: "Do I like top-down racing games?," and "Do I have people to race with?" If you answered "yes" to both questions, you'll likely get your six bucks' worth out of the game.