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Stunt Cars - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Stunt Cars

WiiWare | Icon Games | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways); Wii Wheel
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8th December 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

It's well-known that WiiWare could use more racing games, but thus far, most that have already been released have set the bar moderately high. Now that the standard has been set, along comes Stunt Cars, the first of a series of titles that Icon Games plans to bring to the platform. Even as a modest racing title, Stunt Cars fails to do anything that would satisfy or even excite you, and it ultimately comes across as an unimpressive attempt.

    Stunt Cars contains four basic modes for the solo player as well as three modes designated for multiplayer races. There's the normal 'Race' option, 'Time Trial', a four-trophy cup 'Championship', and an unlockable Timed Challenge' mode. Multiplayer features a 'VS' mode, 2-on-2 races in 'Team' mode, and a 'Tournament' mode which allows you to play any track in the game, regardless of whether or not you've encountered it in the single-player experience. In all, the game also contains 6 cars (2 locked at the start), and 24 stages. There's no tutorial to speak of but there is an Option mode where players can view achievements and customize various settings such as wheel sensitivity. For a WiiWare title, this may all very well sound like the game has managed to concoct a recipe for success! Unfortunately, the game's execution is very lacking, and the experience is hardly as enjoyable as it sets itself up to be.

    The game features a variety of controls that you can take advantage of, depending on your personal preference. When using the traditional control scheme, you hold the Remote on its side and hold the 2 Button to accelerate. The D-Pad is used for movement, meaning that the game features no tilting mechanisms whatsoever. As a result, the Wii Wheel option is practically rendered useless. The 1 Button is used to brake and the B Button allows you to use some of the power in your Boost Meter to go even faster. Camera angles can also be changed with the press of the A Button: these show the action both slightly above and behind your car, and you can even set it to a first-person view. The game isn't complicated whatsoever and has a good pick-up-and-play appeal, but it doesn't really take advantage of the platform's capabilities. If the gameplay was solid, then this would certainly be excusable, yet sadly, this is not the case.

As was touched on at the outset, Stunt Cars has a total of 24 stages. Although this may be impressive in itself, the tracks are full of uninspired level designs that are just plain average. Almost all of them are of good length so that's great to see, but this would be appreciated a lot more if the track designs weren't so mediocre. Furthermore, each stage features a small number of checkpoints that you'll pass as you zoom along a track. If you happen to fall off the stage, the game will automatically bring you back to the last checkpoint you encountered. And herein lies the biggest problem with the game: flying off tracks can be incredibly costly! It's very frustrating to fall off a track and then be placed at a checkpoint miles behind your competitors, in some cases making it almost impossible for you to catch up. This unforgiving sense of level design proves too frustrating for the average player and could very well result in someone losing interest in the game because of it. Thankfully, there are a few elements that makes this aspect easier to deal with.

Championship Mode has two redeeming qualities that may please people that do give the game a chance. The Championship doesn't have to be completed all in one sitting. You can complete a level, save the game, and come back some other time and your progress will still be saved. This is a great feature, especially for those times when players may find they need to take a break from the frustrations of the gameplay. You'll also be pleased with the odd, yet helpful ability to restart a stage as many times as you want without getting penalized. But this helps with the frustrating aspects that come with going out of bounds on a track, and those who want to press on with the game will appreciate such a feature. The game may also very well improve for some when playing in first-person view. With the camera on the normal setting, you'll find yourself overshooting the brakes a bit because of the way the framerate can suddenly change during gameplay. With the camera set to the first-person view, it almost feels like your car is moving at a slightly slower, albeit controlled, pace. This gives you a bit more preparation for tight corners when travelling at faster speeds, preventing you from falling off as frequently.

For a game that's called "Stunt Cars", the game sure doesn't live up to its name, since the levels barely have any real "stunts" to them that go beyond basic ramps. That's not to say the game doesn't have stunts at all, because it does, but most will be left too frustrated by the racing aspect to continue far enough to see whatever gimmicks the game passes as "stunts". Although High Voltage Hot Rod Show didn't have extravagant stunts, going off ramps and doing tricks in the air was actually really enjoyable. Here, the ramps don't exactly convey a feeling of excitement or enjoyment. Even when you get some good air time or do a good drift, you're not rewarded in any way, shape or form, not even in boost power. A lot more definitely could've been done with the whole "stunt" aspect and it feels like such a wasted opportunity.
    Stunt Cars does get a few things done right when it comes to presentation. The effects used for the Boost function are nicely done and almost resemble something out of Need for Speed: Carbon. Sparks will also fly when you either sustain or inflict a heavy hit on an enemy racer, adding another nice effect. Menus are easy to navigate, loading times don't drag on too long and the textures are fairly decent, if not a bit rough. The areas where the game lacks, though, contribute to the "blah" feeling that permeates the whole game. 

The game's music sounds like it was either composed in MIDI format or optimized for a Game Boy Advance game. We understand that the music is meant to have an old-school feel to it but the audio just isn't that great. The wheel turning animations, too, aren't that smooth and much like the braking mechanisms for each of the cars, it appears to be very abrupt. As mentioned earlier, the game definitely has some issues in the framerate department. Sometimes as you approach a corner at a fast speed, the 'rate will change suddenly without reason, something that really shouldn't happen in a racing game. As you could imagine, it's even worse when playing the game with 4 people. That's not to say that the game is rendered unplayable. It's just that the drops are very noticeable and put a damper on the experience. 

    Regardless of whether you play by yourself or with friends, there's nothing exciting about the game at all. The game almost begs for a Battle Mode where players can duke it out in a ramp-ridden arena, as this would've definitely made the game more interesting. Probably the most fun you'll get from the game is when you're fooling around in multiplayer, boosting into the back of another person's car and watching them fly (or, alternatively, watching yourself fly if you happen to miss by an inch)! Otherwise, the level of "action" that's present in the game will leave you underwhelmed and dissatisfied.

Beyond the element of curiousity, there's actually very little reason why you should give this one a go. 800 Points could just as easily go towards Heracles Chariot Racing, High Voltage Hot Rod Show, or even Driift Mania - all of which are racing games of much better quality. Some of the game's elements seem to set itself up for success, but the execution is lacking in enough respects that would squash any chance of even giving the slightest recommendation of this game. Although Stunt Cars is far from a success as a WiiWare title, I have strong hopes that if Icon Games take a careful look at the complaints that have been addressed, they'll be able to make a much more competent DSiWare release.

18/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Easy to learn, could've used more stunts, some good aspects, pretty dull, nice control options
Presentation 5/10 - Rough textures, jumpy framerate, user-friendly menus, some nice effects, music could use some work
Enjoyment 2/5 - Falling off course can be aggravating, racing isn't very exciting, some enjoyment to be had in multiplayer
Extra Content 5/5 - Variety of modes when playing by yourself or with a group, achievements, great number of levels, unlockables

Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Stunt Cars
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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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