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Mart Racer - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Mart Racer

WiiWare | JoJu Games | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer play) / 4 Players (online versus) | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways, motion or buttons)

1st December 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

Ever watch those reality shows on television that pit teams in a race against one another, scavenging a store for a series of items? Mart Racer draws on a similar appeal and whilst playing, you can certainly feel like you're actually participating in a TV show with a similar premise. Mart Racer's unique concept help set itself up to be an appealing purchase on WiiWare but sadly, when it comes to actual gameplay, it ends up being more of an empty experience than a satisfying one.

    The object of the game is to be the first player to reach the checkout area after successfully locating 6 randomly-placed items within the confines of a large store. Players have an on-screen map that gives a limited view of the area around them, with items shown with coloured dots to give you a sense of direction. When players locate an item and place it in their carts, it's not there permanently - opponents have the ability to steal items off other players by using items littered throughout the store. These items range from offensive projectiles such as toilet plungers, movement inhibitors such as oil containers and even a defensive helmet to prevent you from having items stolen. There's a pretty good mix of items that players can make use of and since items aren't placed at every corner, there's a good balance there as well.

    As for the levels themselves, players will find grocery aisles, fruit displays and even random shoppers which all make environments feel a bit more authentic. What Mart Racer does right is that it features a good selection of environments. There's a decent level of variety amongst the different levels as well. Not only do the environments have some presentation differences (e.g., a store having a Mexican theme) but there are some gameplay variations as well. Some stages have multiple floors that can be accessed through escalators at certain ends of the store, creating an even larger field of play. In some stores, players will have to watch for a whistle-blowing Security Guard who will chase you down on his segway if he spots you moving too fast. If he catches up to you, the guard will whack you on the head with his security bat (with a rather humourous sound effect), making you lose an item. Little things like these add variety and this ultimately gives the player a sense of motivation to try each stage and see how they differ from each other.

    Although you would think otherwise, certain aspects of the game prevent Mart Racer from having the "mad dash" feel that it should. It's nice to see that the computers aren't tough so as to discourage newcomers but at the same time, it would've been nice to be able to control the difficulty of the computers. Although younger players may not notice it as much, older players will quickly notice that the computers provide very little challenge and are rather easy to defeat. It's understandable that this has been done for good reason but since the game is intended to appeal to all audiences, this aspect could've definitely been improved to create a more sustainable single-player experience. Moreover, winning a match hardly feels like a victory when you're playing on your own. Not only because of the easy computers but also because winning, in general, feels very dry; the cashiers applaud you, you head back to the Main Menu and that's the end of it. These small niggles bring down the experience and playing on your own doesn't feel that satisfying. Once you've unlocked and tried each of the game's environments, feelings of dissatisfaction are bound to arise as you feel like you've seen all there is to see in the game.

    Moving away from the gameplay aspect, Mart Racer definitely looks and feels as though more effort could've been put into it to make it a more palatable experience. In terms of presentation, the game comes across as a bit barebones with only 3 modes to speak of with no major gameplay variations. Character choices are a mix between generic and outlandish, but none of them are really memorable even in the slightest. Many of the environments have some nice elements incorporated into them and we can only imagine this was done so as to create a more realistic experience. Unfortunately, this is all undermined by one or two unappealing gameplay elements. The biggest culprit is the animation that's shown when players are moving at top speed and run into something; in an almost shoddy movement, players float into the sky at come down in a rather slow motion. Also, when players access escalators in certain stores, the game doesn't actually show players going up or down to another floor. Instead, in a rather lazy fashion, the screen blanks out, the words "Going up!" appear, and players instantly find themselves on a new floor. It would've been great if the developers took the time to execute these animations better but at the same time, these are only minor complaints that some may be willing to overlook.

    JoJu Games decided to give players a choice between two control schemes - one with motion controls and the other using D-Pad controls (labelled "retro style"). It would've helped if the developers were consistent on the menu screens when it comes to the positioning of the Wii Remote but aside from the slight confusion, the controls are explained pretty well. When using motion controls, players turn the Wii Remote in different directions to turn, pulling back to break, and using button presses to activate items. Alternatively, the D-Pad can be used to control movement and drifting techniques, and buttons can, again, be used for items. For the most part, the controls work well with both control schemes and they're easy to get used to.

    Multiplayer features a 4-way split-screen and unfortunately, even when playing with 2 players, the screen is still divided into fours - the other two showing computer opponents! In this circumstance, players will find themselves irritated, asking "do we really need to see the computers?". This ultimately brings down the experience and for that reason, the game is best suited for 4 players. Unfortunately, even if you do find the ideal number of players, it's likely that more than one person will find that the gameplay isn't as fun as you would hope. Even without the framerate slowdowns, the gameplay feels a bit empty and the amount of fun one may experience from this is actually very limited.

    Online play would normally be a big saving grace here for a game that's, otherwise, completely lacking in extended content, but unfortunately that's not the case. It's extremely difficult to find just one person to get a match going and although this isn't entirely the fault of the developers, it's still a glaring fault. We would love to comment on how gameplay holds up in terms of lag and enjoyment but we can't, simply because the online community is so lacking in this game. Anyone who may be drawn in by the fact that the game includes online play should keep this in mind before taking the plunge.
It's not uncommon to find a game like Mart Racer with a concept that has potential, but ultimately lacks in execution. The experience leaves much to be desired and especially when you consider the length of time the game has been in development, the end result is even more disappointing. It's extremely difficult to justify the 800-point price tag when there's so much else you could purchase on WiiWare that would leave you much more satisfied. Although Joju Games has tried to make their first WiiWare title a success, you'll quickly discover that despite some good elements here and there, Mart Racer is definitely not worth the asking price.

18/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10  - Controls are mapped pretty well, decent execution with some niggles here and there
Presentation 6/10 - A good selection of stages, detailed aisles and items, annoying split-screen even with 2 players, basic menus
Enjoyment 3/5 - CPU's pose little challenge for solo players, can be a fun at times unless the concept doesn't grab you
Extra Content 2/5 -  Online play is a great addition but the online community is terrible lacking, could've used more modes

Mart Racer
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