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MotoHeroz - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | RedLynx | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Pay & Play DLC | Out Now | 1,500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways)
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17th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

As depressed as I was over the retail situation with BIT.TRIP COMPLETE and BIT.TRIP SAGA, WiiWare support this year has been a harder pill to swallow. Can't remember what came out this year? Allow me to remind you of names like Cozy Fire, Arcade Essentials, and My Little Baby. Not just that, but the number of releases was less than the year before and they were more spread out. Clearly, not as many developers feel as drawn to the WiiWare service these days. Standing proudly on top of the poor experiences and the dwindling support is a game with a strong showing. That game is MotoHeroz. Although it had an advantage of a notable marketing push compared to other WiiWare titles, MotoHeroz still hasn't received enough recognition and support. I'm betting the aforementioned issues over the past year played a role in that. Too bad for them, but I'm sure you know better than to ignore a solid downloadable title when you see one. Yes, MotoHeroz delivers on just about every promise the developers made, and the result is an experience that really delivers.

    As depicted in the screens and videos you've undoubtedly seen, MotoHeroz is a side-scrolling, platform-based racing game. Needless to say, this is something we admittedly don't see as often as we should. The entire setup is unlike your typical racer, which already positions the title as a treat for fans of the WiiWare platform. The game is split up into five main components. The first of these is the Story Adventure where you play on your own terms, unlocking content and seeing all the sights the game has to offer. The second is Online Play which presents some interesting competitions where you can prove you're the best of the best. Third is Party Rally, the multiplayer option where you can play with up to four players in competitive races. Then there's an Add-On Content menu which, at the time of writing, currently holds no DLC for players to purchase. More on that later. And finally, at the Garage menu, you can spend coins you've gathered in the single-player mode on new vehicles.

The controls in this game work very well. Pressing the 2 Button will activate the gas, while the 1 Button is used to reverse. If your vehicle starts driving on one wheel instead of two or it winds up upside down, you can shake the Wii Remote to give it a quick jolt. One of the best features about the simple control system stems from the rewarding tilt mechanism. Instead of using the Wii Remote's built-in motion controls to adjust your vehicle's angle, the D-Pad is used instead for a more precise way of anticipating and reacting to obstacles that come your way. By holding down Left or Right on the D-Pad while in mid-air, you can do a full flip either forwards or backwards. Best of all, well-timed flips and slight angle changes that appear to make only a fraction of a difference in actuality become techniques you must employ on a regular basis to get ahead. In line with this, I was pleased to see that reverse movement is just as fast as going forward. This prevents the game from have pace-breaking moments and it also contributes to the tight competition that I'll get into later on.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that physics play a big role here, giving the racing elements more "pop", if you will. Players are required to use the aforementioned tilt mechanic to prop their front wheel up or have it pointing downwards so they can minimize the effects of gravity. Almost like a floatation device on the sea, the physics in the game are sensitively crafted to give vehicles just the right amount of bounce without having you feel like you're on the moon. In your selection of vehicles, you'll get to use monster trucks, dune buggies, and even a flying saucer. While you may think otherwise at the beginning, players will come to the realization that the vehicles aren't weighed down, for even the heaviest vehicle choice exhibits qualities that resemble a lightweight one. At the end of the day, the great implementation of physics demonstrates just how much precision they put into the control, which is perfect considering you're expected to have a similar amount of accuracy and determination as you move forward.

By playing on your own in Story Adventure, you'll come to see much of how MotoHeroz operates. Yes, the game is about racing, but it's not simply about getting from Point A to Point B. The developers have put a lot of time into making sure that players have fun along the way, and I'm happy to say that they succeeded. The game always feels like it's throwing a new bone at you for you to chase or hunt down, and it's done in such a way that you feel compelled to replay levels to see if you've really discovered the best path. It's with this layer of continual surprise factor that the game becomes addicting in its own right. When participating in challenges that pit you against a ghost, there's a hint of risk-taking that becomes evident as players almost instinctively take paths that differ from the one the ghost might have taken. Furthermore, coins littered throughout the tracks add replay value by challenging you to consider other strategies on additional playthroughs.

    In all cases, though, whether you play follow the leader or sing your own tune, second-rate performances are simply not good enough. You must always strive for a Silver medal or higher, securing a regular challenge factor throughout the entire experience. The conscientious movement away from the bare minimum presents an interesting dynamic in the way players are expected to bring their A-game when they play even on their own. Naturally, earning a Gold medal is more arduous than any of the Silver requirements. On top of that, unless you beat your challenge, any coins you collect along the way won't get cashed in. If you strictly focus on the ghost and end up winning, more than likely you'll miss out on a bunch of coins along the way. And so this encourages you to still come back and complete past challenges, even despite having made key accomplishments.

Aside from the collectible coins, some levels also feature Ancestor Spirits, represented by blue orbs. These can be found in areas that may very well be distant from the main path to the goal, but once you have retrieved them, they'll be permanently stored in your database. Heading out of the level select screen, you can select Spirit Gallery to view the lineage of ancestors tied to the characters in this game. I'm not sure how these tie in to the story and it does feel a tad shallow to be quite honest, but having that extra motivation of something to seek out is certainly welcome all the same.

    Much of the missions involve racing a ghost to the end of a level, however there is quite a bit of variety to be had along the way. For one, you may be up against a whole pack of players instead of just a ghost -- which sadly became more of a rarity as the Adventure went on. Other mission types include Ski Jump events where you need to activate the boost item at just the right time to achieve the maximum distance possible. At one point, you'll even be asked to carry a basket of eggs on top of your buggy on your bumpy path to the finish line. In the end, MotoHeroz successfully manages to keep players coming back to make progress for reasons other than just vehicle unlocks. So a job well done there.

Even more praiseworthy are the level designs themselves. RedLynx has really done a good job of infusing creativity into this game, and it really does show up quite easily. One moment your vehicle will spurt up from a well, the next you'll be using wooden bobsleds, Super Monkey Ball-esque cages, mine carts and even viking ships to get around. While the desert is where you'll spend most of your time, players will explore small caves, and also head to both space- and underwater-themed environments where hazards abound and controls take an interesting turn. And even within standard levels, you'll gradually unlock new elements to interact with, including ladybugs that will lift rivals off the ground, explosives that will send you flying, and equippable parachutes for getting across gaps. There's definitely a lot at work here to ensure that the game remains engaging, even as players clear a whole string of levels.

    Going back to what I said earlier about the reverse controls being of good speed, loops are often set up in such a way that you'll be quickly by switching from forward to backward movement, with a possible flip in between to tie it all together. And as you go through a brief spin cycle in a set of loop-de-loops, parts of the platform that were previously solid wood will shatter, revealing an opening for you to escape the circuit. The level designs are a key reason why it feels easy to go for long stretches without getting tired of the game. It's not something that grows on you with time. No, the level designs are immediately loveable and serve as a wonderful catalyst for letting loose and enjoying yourself.

But of course, as fun as it is to play through the game's central method of progression, the fun factor is amplified greatly in a multiplayer setting. Party Rally mode has been adapted in such a way that it doesn't alienate potential players. It's inviting for younger audiences to participate, yet still has enough technique to it that older gamers can master. And in bridging that gap between two different audiences, RedLynx's determination to make MotoHeroz mass marketable has certainly paid off. More than that, though, the gameplay is very balanced despite the fact that competition feels so tight much of the time. On some tracks, as the lead players press on ahead, secret entrances will open up, giving the person at the back an opportunity to cut them off. It's certainly not uncommon for lots of laughs to be heard or for rivals to purposely obstruct certain people from advancing. With all of this in mind, it's perfectly accurate that the game describes this mode as "mayhem".

    I have to tip my hat off to the developers for including such a good variety of multiplayer challenges. Often with multiplayer experiences (especially on WiiWare), your selection of maps is quite limited. But I was so relieved to see that we were given a range of choices. They fleshed it out quite well in a way that a person who shows the game to their friends won't easily learn every single trick to each track. It's with this reason that I'm hoping for more multiplayer maps as DLC. As I touched on earlier, the developers have not yet put up any new additional content which does worry me a bit since the game has been out for a while. Nevertheless, so long as content does come, I'll be a happy camper.

With respect to the Wi-Fi incorporation in this game, I have to say their promise to have regular tournaments all throughout the year has turned out to be a great system. A handful of events will open up for a short period of time to participate in before no more entries are permitted. One-Shot events only accept a single submission, while Unlimited allows you to improve your best record again and again until the time expires. By participating in these online events, you can accumulate League Points which are used to measure your skills against everyone else's via the online leaderboard.

    These events are much about trial and error, and many times you're left wondering, "How did that person do two full seconds better than I did?" The developers saw to it that after participants complete their first run, you can highlight someone else's position on the leaderboard, and press Retry to race against their ghost. That's only true for Unlimited events, however. For One-Shot events, you can only view ghosts of other racers after you've submitted your stat. It's a good idea as it ensures that people who submit their times first don't just have people looking at their ghost to see the best route to take. 

Even now, many weeks following the game's release, tournaments are still ongoing with community players racking up points for their entries. Honestly, the way they have things organized here is, in my opinion, much better than Mario Kart Wii's tournaments ever were. Purposeful, fun and attractive enough to come back to over the long-term, the lack of direct competition isn't even a reasonable complaint, especially with the amount of content that's available. The closest thing you have to that is the ability to create Buddy Leagues where you can set up your own group name for you and your friends so you can track each other's scores in the different events.

    I easily spent long periods of time in the online mode alone, feeling excited and continually motivated to improve and climb the leaderboards. However, the only problem I had with the online approach was that it can be incredibly frustrating if you get stuck during your entry run on a One-Shot event. This happened to me where my buggy got wedged in amongst a group of logs and no matter what I did, I was trapped. That aside, if you're the type of person who finds great satisfaction in doing speed runs in games, I'm sure you'll be fond of this game's approach to an online system.

Presentation-wise, I'd say RedLynx did great work here as well. The music, for one, serves multiple purposes. It does a good job of adding to the game's charm, it aids in the competitive feel, and at times it even gives the game an almost innocent atmosphere. Visually, the game is just so friendly to look at, with cartoon visuals that feature nice colours choices and attractive backgrounds that show up well on the television screen. The game looks and sounds great, so there are absolutely no complaints from me on this front.

    Through great game design, the developers have skillfully minimized whatever minor flaws may surface from time to time. Even on such points as longevity, MotoHeroz still manages to exceed expectations and will likely live on as a rich multiplayer experience that will stick with people. MotoHeroz is one of WiiWare's deepest, most high-spirited experiences yet, and while it does have one of the highest price tags of any game on the service, it's totally worth every penny.

28/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Creative platforming in amongst the racing component, level designs are lovely, great controls, everything comes together really well
Presentation 9/10 - The different settings look really good, thoughtful use of colours throughout, charming presentation with an appealing atmosphere
Enjoyment 5/5 - Very engaging, fosters close competition, lots of variety in the different missions, really shines in Party Rally, easy to come back to
Extra Content 5/5 - Unlockable vehicles, Ancestor Spirits, tough ghosts to beat, online tournaments, nice mix of multiplayer events, worth the asking price

Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8