For all intents and purposes, Nitrobike hits the scene eager to reclaim the thrill of the Excite Bike series. With wild courses, lots of jumps and a tank full of nitro boost, this bike racer seems like a good time right out of the gate. Unfortunately there are some problems that keep it broken down in the mud as the entertainment value depletes the more time spent with it.
When initially firing up Nitrobike, you'll be impressed by the sense of speed and overall structure of the game. It's really hard not to be when combined with the fact that the title follows the genre standard progression system. The game simply rewards you for winning races by opening up more competition to sink your teeth into. While variety and creativity are certainly appreciated, the simple fact that the Wii is lacking in racing titles means that developers should be looking at the roots of the genre. Why try something different if you can't even get the core gameplay right? Not only that but what about controls?
As far as the controls are concerned Nitrobike mimics Excite Truck in almost every way. The Wiimote is held on its side for steering. The D-pad is used to boost or tilt backwards to make the bike lift the front tire, and the 1 and 2 buttons are for brake and gas respectively. It's a natural feel that helps the title but by no means does it save it from mediocrity.
For starters the level designs are very unforgiving. Each track is riddled with corners that halt the flow of the action and jumps that present obnoxious dangers. The main goal is to boost and that's frankly the only way you're going to win a race. Imagine being forced to use said boost only to find yourself barreling into a corner. When that happens, you'll need to brake, turn, and boost again. It's a process that bears constant repetition. Until you get used to it, expect to run off the track quite a bit. Let's just say you'll be spending a fair amount of time being directed back on the track.
Another problem that appears with turning (as well as jumping and hitting other racers) is the ease with which your bike will explode. It seems that nitro is a volatile compound and the slightest nick will send you to the afterlife in a hefty ball of fire. It's very hard to tell exactly what will cause you to go boom, so navigating treacherous courses turns out to be a lesson in frustration more than a rewarding experience.
Another aspect that should be implemented in racing games is competent AI. In Nitrobike the AI fluctuates and it's not uncommon to find yourself burning through a track only to have one mistake allow a horde of opponents to catch up. On the flipside if you find yourself trailing, it can be a little too easy to make your way back to the pack. It's all a matter of getting used to the tight quarters on each course and a bit of luck in.
Multiplayer is available in Nitrobike with a friend on the same console or via Wi-Fi if you have a Friend Code. If you find yourself hoping to find some random person to play with; good luck. There's virtually no way to connect with someone you don't know since there's no lobby or matchmaking system. It's a shot in the dark at best. Unless you fit the best of criteria, Nitrobike is but a disappointing single player experience.
I realize there are distinct differences in the technologies between the Wii and PlayStation 3 but after experiencing Motorstorm for the PS3, Nitrobike simply looks archaic. Sloppy textures, a lack of detail, and odd design choices blanket this title like a towel that has been in the laundry hamper for a month too long. Unfortunately, the realistic approach yields all of the flaws. A stylistic approach would have improved the title tremendously. There are several racing titles on the Wii that have set the bar for the console and Nitrobike hardly comes close. In many ways, it looks like a racing game from a couple generations ago.
Like the visuals, the audio comes up short by comparison to other racing titles on the market. The quality of the audio direction screams bargain bin as a droll soundtrack and iffy effects assault your ears almost constantly. The sound may be stable and free of glitches but that does nothing for the underwhelming quality of the material. Perhaps I've been spoiled by higher quality racers on other consoles but Nitrobike comes up short in almost every way.
While the MSRP may not scream bargain title, the overall package certainly does. The uninspired gameplay had potential but comes up short thanks to unforgiving track design, disappointing AI and a complete lack zeal for the genre. Lackluster graphics and poor audio do nothing to fill in the blanks either. There are moments where the game is actually entertaining but these highlights are few and far between. Stick with Excite Truck or simply move over to another console for a solid racing experience; Nitrobike isn't worth the price of admission.