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Heracles Chariot Racing - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Heracles Chariot Racing

WiiWare | Neko Entertainment | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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6th August 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

Neko Entertainment sure has been busy in bringing past PS2 games to the WiiWare service in hopes of finding a new audience for these older games. Neko has been focusing on the Cocoto franchise since WiiWare launched so to see a game from a completely different series come to WiiWare is a nice surprise. Heracles Chariot Racing marks itself as the third game on the service belonging to the racing genre -- something WiiWare needs more of. But is Heracles Chariot Racing simply an uninspired Mario Kart clone or is there more to it than meets the mythological eye?

    Once you start playing, it's very easy to notice that Heracles Chariot Racing has a modest amount of variety to it. The game features 9 different characters with varying attributes along with a good selection of items. For the most part the items are pretty balanced albeit they're all standard power-ups you've probably seen before (speed boosts, homing attacks and the like). As far as tracks go, the game really only consists of a total of 5 different tracks set across mythological environments and locales. The "Bronze Trophy" cup contains 5 greek-inspired tracks and the "Silver Trophy" cup contains the same 5 tracks but with different environment variations (such as new branching paths). The final "Gold Trophy" cup is simply a mixture of all the tracks found in both the Bronze and Silver classes.

The track design is standard affair save for maybe one or two that have good design overall. The game's tracks aren't as easy to get the hang of on your first run when compared with other racing games and as a result, multiplayer bouts may bring about frustration for first-time players. The fifth and final track, in particular, is quite challenging thanks to a large amount of sharp turns especially at the start of the stage. In some cases, the controls aren't up to par with handling these small, sharp turns perfectly especially when a player attempts these on their first go. Despite all of this, the game is enjoyable so it's great to see that the minor flaws don't make the game unplayable or monotonous. Thankfully what doesn't add to the frustration is rubberband AI -- something Neko Entertainment has made it a point to avoid. Although the AI can be challenging, they don't miraculously come into the lead after just having been hit by an item 2 seconds ago and that's great to see. 

    Overall the controls work quite well which is always a plus for a game like this. The standard control scheme has players using the Wii Remote to use items, accelerate and even jump with a simple upwards motion -- something Neko has added in this WiiWare re-release. The Nunchuk's analog is used to steer and even the accelerometers within the Nunchuk are even put to use here. Neko's second addition to their re-release allows players to "drift" and manuever around sharp turns with ease simply by tilting the Nunchuk in the appropriate direction and we're happy to report that it works rather well. Depending on the character, though, you may have to compensate a bit since the controls are a bit loose for certain characters and this can cause a bit of problems, especially with the large amounts of sharp turns on the final stage.

    Other racing games on this platform have proven that customization is very important in making the game accessible and adaptable to first-time users. Sadly, this is exactly what Heracles Chariot Racing lacks. The developers have only given players the option to play using the standard control scheme with the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk. There's absolutely no other controller support or control customization to speak of which is a big shame especially since those of younger audiences may not be used to controlling the game in such a manner.

What racing game would be complete without a mode where you can pit your skills against the clock? It's great to see that Heracles Chariot Racing does, indeed, have a Time Trial mode and what's particularly noteworthy is that this mode causes players to rely more on skill than items since there are absolutely no items to speak of in this mode. The game has a Records mode where you can view your best records on each of the cups, and individual tracks. What's strange, though, is that the game doesn't make any acknowledgement of the trophies you've receieved from the cups. If the game kept track of what trophies you got, the single-player component would be more sustainable. The game also has a decent, albeit a tad basic, Battle mode. Needless to say, this mode is meant for multiplayer and while it can be fun for the first couple times or so, it can wear rather thin after a while for some. This is particularly true because the arenas aren't particularly exciting, plus, most of them aren't of good size to accomodate battles with more than 2 players.

    Presentation-wise, the graphics work rather well when compared with other WiiWare games. The game sports some pretty good detail in the environments, the character models and even some of the obstacles found littered through the stages. While the game's graphics may be noteworthy given the size limitations of this platform, the game's music is nothing to write home about. Some of the music is rather uninteresting whereas a select few (such as the one used on the first track) suit the atmosphere of the game and work rather well so it is a bit of a mixed bag. 

Unfortunately, not everything about the game works well. There are some notable gameplay kinks that should've been ironed out before the game was released and it seems like a bit of an oversight on the developer's part to not have these rectified. For example, sometimes if you're too close to the edge of the track and you're about to fall off, your character may give out a scream, as if they had actually fallen off the track. While this doesn't happen too often, when it does, it can be rather annoying. The biggest technical flaw in the game, however, is just so glaringly obvious, it would be silly of us not to make mention of it. For some strange reason, the game's audio completely times out once you start the last lap of any race! It puts a bit of a damper on the overall experience to only hear the wheels of chariots instead of having some accompanying background music. We have no idea how the developers overlooked this but if they spent a little more time with testing they should've spotted this issue.

    There isn't much to say about Heracles Chariot Racing as far as innovation goes since it plays things by the book, but in this case, that's not a bad thing! When you take a look at the lack of racing titles on the WiiWare service, Neko Entertainment made a good call in re-releasing this game and they are to be applauded for the little additions they made to ensure the game wasn't a straight port. Despite some technical idiosyncracies, if you can get over how standard the game feels, Heracles Chariot Racing is an enjoyable racing game marked at such a reasonable price.

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - 
Controls work well, challenging AI, standard track designs with some flaws, lack of control customization
Presentation 7/10 -
 Sleek presentation that bodes well with the mythology theme, mostly forgettable music, audio flaws
Enjoyment 4/5 - 
Relatively fun by yourself but there's nothing to strive for; races are enjoyable with friends, battle can be fun for a while
Extra Content 3/5 - 
Much of the replay value stems from playing with friends; motion controls work well, not a straight port

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Heracles Chariot Racing
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