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The Amazing Race - Wii Review

Game Info
The Amazing Race

Wii | Ubisoft / Ludia | 2 Player / 4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote (sideways)
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24th December 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

The Amazing Race just concluded another riveting season on television, consisting of crazy antics in a team-based race around the globe. I personally love the show, not only for the entertainment of seeing people try to complete those crazy challenges, but also for the cultural factor of learning more about different geological areas of interest. When Ubisoft announced that they were developing an adaptation of the popular reality TV program for the Wii, I was cautiously optimistic. In the back of my mind, I was very worried the game would fail to properly convey the excitement of the show. True to those sentiments, now that I've played it, I strongly feel that Ubisoft has failed to recreate the magic of the show in the average gamer's living room, and it most certainly does not serve as a good experience.

    In playing for the first time, you'll definitely take notice of the intro movie that uses clips from the show's title sequence but with fewer cuts, showing some of the character pairings featured in the game. It gets you to contemplate whether or not this game will make you feel like you're a part of the real-life experience. Staying true to the teamwork nature of the series, the Wii adaptation forces you to play with either 2 or 4 persons, with no option set aside for single-player play. And it's just as well since playing with the computer just wouldn't offer the same experience. First and foremost, teams will create a profile using 12 different male and female character templates. Then, you'll select from such styles as Athlete, Fan, Parent and Soldier to apply one of the pre-set costumes to your chosen character, followed by a team name of your choice. A maximum of 4 different profiles can be created, allowing you to customize team combinations for when family and friends participate. 

From the Main Menu, you have access to a relatively limited selection of options. There's the main Adventure Mode for two-players, as well as a four-person Party Mode. Both these modes can be played on 3 different settings that will determine the length of the game, namely Tour, Journey and Race (consisting of 5, 9 and 11 legs respectively). Then you also have a Race Journal where you can reminisce on the places you've visited in the different legs with still images of important landmarks and some trivia as well. Finally, the Video Highlights menu contains a total of 32 slots, each locking a special video clip from the TV series, with access granted after performing specified tasks in Adventure Mode (such as placing first in an event). These were great to watch, especially ones that pertained to episodes I watched, or ones I missed for that matter.

    The structure should carry a sense of familiarity with those who are well acquainted with the TV series. Players first start off in a random location, like Moscow for example, as Phil Keoghan reads aloud the dialog prompts at the bottom of the screen. I must say I was a bit surprised to see the amount of voiceovers that were recorded for this game, but either way it certainly adds to the level of authenticity the developers were aiming for. Players will be given travel money at the start of each leg of the race, and then receive their first Route Info card. These cards direct you to travel to a new destination using ground or air travel. It's at this point in the game when the excitement builds, at least in theory.

Teams will be presented with four different options for travel, and must pick the best option available as quickly as possible. The yellow arrows indicate speed, and the red bar will indicate when you depart from your current location. Because the bar is constantly moving from left to right, the idea is to select the ideal transport when the bar is closest to the left, thereby minimizing wait time. Once both teams have selected their means of transportation, either an overview map of a geographical region or a simple rendering of a city route will be displayed. It's presented in a pretty simple manner, especially the latter which could've easily been a 3D view of streets had there been more effort put into this. 

    Now what's interesting is that on your way to the next destination, your transportation can be set back by uncontrollable variables, such as inclement weather or traffic. Conversely, you may experience good conditions, getting you to your next stop even faster than you expected. This was another good element to the game's structure because it stayed true to the unpredictability of the show to an adequate degree. Once all teams have arrived at the designated location, you'll be given a ranking on the overall leaderboard which is determined by the amount of time it took you to get there. From there, you'll need to rely on skill to secure yourselves a spot in the next leg of the race.

All of the challenges you'll be expected to complete are of a mini-game nature, which can be divided up into four different categories. Intersections carry the standard tasks that both team members must complete, Detours allow you to choose between two near-useless task descriptions (e.g., Resize or Restore), Fast Forwards are more of a rarity where teams answer as many questions as possible in striving for a two-hour time bonus, and finally, Road Blocks present you with a personal question (e.g., "Who has a keen eye?"), prompting you to send one player from your team to face off against another pair. In all cases, penalties will be forced upon you if you make a mistake, run out of time, or lose against another team. So it's important that when you're asked to perform challenges as a twosome, you make room for teamwork and verbal communication.

    Since much of the game consists of performing these aforementioned challenges, you would hope that most if not all of them are fun or even challenging. Sadly, if that's the case, your expectations will not even be met halfway. Let's start off with the good stuff before we get to the bad. Probably one of the best challenges in the whole game is the Skydiving task, where you'll need to mentally keep track of time as it passes by, opening up your parachute as close to the specified time as possible. I say that it's one of the best, not because it's original or lots of fun to play, but because it fits with what you'd expect participants on the show to be doing. 

Further to that thought, the Rush Hour task was also one of the better ones because it was a decent exemplification of the teamwork you'd see on the show. In this challenge, you're directed to count the number of specified vehicles that go by on the screen. What's kind of neat here is that the game throws you off by presenting you with an equation-like situation at the end, where you won't always necessarily be adding the two numbers together. This forces you to work together, relying on your partner to make a mental note of one set of vehicles why you worry about the other. 

    And how about all the other challenges? Well, with the possible exception of maybe two tasks (namely, the tomato-throwing and the rally direction events), everything else is a below-average effort. Here are just some of the challenges they'll have you doing. Players will examine scales to determine the heaviest object, clean plates in search of a specific symbol, complete jigsaw puzzles, or pair off matching cards. Seriously, who ever heard of something quite as boring as a game of Memory during a leg of The Amazing Race? What's more, who pumps balloons at a Road Block? 

    Needless to say, the gameplay here takes a heavy blow. Not only are a majority of the challenges a drag to play, but many of them are also ridiculously off from what you'd see on the show which takes a tremendous amount away from whatever "authenticity" the developers were going for with this. Plus, none of these feel very involved in what's expected of the player, and if you ask me, it's an insult to the show.

    On a somewhat-related note, at the end of each leg is the Pit Stop where teams check in with Phil to confirm their current standings and determine whether or not they'll be allowed to race another leg. The team that arrives in first place will earn the reward of extra travel money for the next leg of the race (except, of course, on the last leg). Any time a last-place team dodges elimination, they'll be penalized by losing all of the money they've accumulated. One would expect this portion of the game to instill pressure on the teams to make sure to arrive as fast as they can, but just like with the unbecoming tasks, the developers totally missed the mark with this. Right after Phil indicates where the Pit Stop location is, the game will jump to displaying the results for human participants. There's no race between teams, no adrenaline rush, no nothing. Naturally, this just carries the vibes of disappointment I gathered from this release.

At the conclusion of each leg (with the exception of the final one), you'll have the opportunity to continue playing or suspend play for later. The ability to save and return later is only available in Adventure Mode, meaning that you'll need to go through 4-player games in one session. Plus, in Party Mode, the entire game ends if one team loses which didn't really make sense to me. But I digress. When you begin a new leg, you'll notice that teams will start on the same page where they left off, as it were. Well, in terms of travel money at least. Oddly enough, the positions held from the previous leg are not taken into consideration moving into the next round, meaning that everyone starts off on the same level with equal opportunities. Once again, this isn't an accurate translation of what's done on the show, making for yet another aspect for fans to gripe about.

    Another aspect of the game that upset me was the predictable structure, totally contrary to what one would see on the show. In each leg, the following six events take place: travel money is distributed, players get on a flight to a new destination and complete a task, then players travel by taxi or bus to the next destination where they complete another task, followed by the final directive to head to the Pit Stop, or Finish Line as the case may be. If the TV series were this regimented, I doubt it would be nearly as exciting. Plus, with all of the other flaws that severely plague this release, it just makes the game even duller than it already sets itself up to be. Honestly, I'd be surprised if the average person could sit through a full 11-leg race without getting bored of the game. 

In terms of presentation, this release won't speak to you with the "effort" the developers have put into this. For one, the graphics themselves are just barely average affair, and in more than a few instances, you can tell they took a lazy approach to certain things. Framerate slowdown exists on the character selection screen, and even during some of the mini-games, which of course doesn't help. Plenty of loading screens also exist, which I still can't understand. 

    The video highlights surprised me for being of good quality, but even then, there were one or two instances where even the framerate for the clips went down. The music was also surprisingly good; having music that was taken directly from the TV show was a nice touch. It's just too bad the emotional effects they convey (i.e., building suspense and tension) weren't used to their fullest potential.

    The Wii adaptation of The Amazing Race is an all-around dissatisfying attempt at trying to approach the TV series in video game form. Admittedly, there were some parts they did get right, but as a whole, there are just way too many issues with this release for me to be able to recommend this. Dreadfully dull at best, and I doubt even the most devoted of fans will be able to see through these glaring flaws. It's thoroughly insulting, and an absolute disservice to the show.

12/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 4/10 - Some elements have been executed properly (e.g, travelling), system is too regimented, contains lots of inaccuracies and structural flaws
Presentation 5/10 - Visuals are just barely average, framerate goes down on multiple occasions, long loading screens, good music inspired from the show
Enjoyment 1/5 - Not a good reflection of the show's excitement, challenges are either dull or totally off from what you'd see on the show, lots of design flaws
Extra Content 2/5 - Two game modes, Race Journal, Video Highlights are of good quality, character customization, not a worthwhile purchase at all

Equivalent to a score of 40% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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