Ubisoft aren’t as chummy with Nintendo in the way that Capcom or Sega are, but they did help bolster the Wii’s western launch with a large number of titles and continue to heavily support the system. With this in mind, quite a few people asked why Nintendo didn’t lend them the Excitebike name for this muddy racer developed by Left Field – the guys behind, funnily enough, the super slick Excitebike 64. But even without the renowned name attached you might say that they’ve still got a lot of live up to.

NitroBikeRather than offering a number of control systems each as fiddly as the last, NitroBike has just one – holding the remote on its side like a handlebar. The buttons are used for acceleration, nitros and stunts, whilst turning the remote steers, naturally. Pulling off stunts builds up your nitro bar – letting rip with a burst of speed sends your biker flying through the air at a catastrophic speed and often to the front of the close-knit racing pack. The tricky part of the control system is also what separates the men from the boys: while airborne the pad has to be tilted so that you land at the right angle. Although you don’t come to a stand still if you crash down to Earth it’s not exactly a clever thing to do.

Initially the tracks appear quite typical (snowy mountain, forest, beach, etc) but it doesn’t take long for the more interesting ones to show up such as an urban construction site and a desert-based airplane graveyard. Most have damageable objects but don’t expect physics in the same league as Motorstorm. The opposite in fact – they’re almost laughably unrealistic. The bikes do explode if pushed too hard though, and emit a nice explosion effect when doing so. Sadly the rest of the visuals are a bit rough and ready – there were probably prettier racers on the GameCube.

If there’s one thing NitroBike needs, it’s a personality injection. You can pick and unlock a range of wacky characters – including a punk with purple hair – and some of the bikes are a bit crazy looking but during the races everybody looks almost identical. There’s no speech or commentary either, and the generic rock soundtrack hardly does any favours for the earlobes.

One surprising inclusion, and not to mention the sole saving grace, is online play. You can play against random people or people on your friend’s list, but there’s no way to communicate with one another so it does feel a little soulless. On the plus side there’s no lag and we managed to find a game pretty easily. In a couple of months time though? Well, that’s impossible to say unless somebody has a time machine to lend us.

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